Former Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter gives Tanner Lecture, meets with Maxwell students

On October 14, 2016, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University proudly welcomed one of America’s most respected large-city mayors—former Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter—for the Tanner Lecture Series on Ethics, Citizenship, and Public Responsibility. Drawing on his distinguished career in public service, the former mayor delivered remarks titled “The Athenian Oath and Political Leadership in America” to a packed audience gathered in Maxwell Auditorium. The Tanner Lecture Series is hosted by the Campbell Public Affairs Institute and is made possible through the generous donation of Maxwell alumnus and advisory board member W. Lynn Tanner.

Following welcome and introductory remarks by Maxwell Dean David M. Van Slyke and Campbell Director Grant Reeher, Mayor Nutter began by discussing his path to public service and a literally unpredictable successful campaign for mayor, after servin almost 15 years on Philadelphia City Council. “My own poll told me that I would come last in a five-way race, no matter who ran,” he remarked.

Undaunted, and motivated by a sense of “purpose” not a quest for “power,” Nutter resigned his post on the City Council and ran for the Mayor’s office, winning 83% of the vote in the general election.

Nutter went on to share his philosophy on political leadership, and some of his hard-won knowledge born from successes and failures in public office. “If you have a deep need to be loved and admired every day, this is not the job for you,” he said. Of the Athenian Oath, which he carries in his wallet and that is engraved on the wall of Maxwell adjacent to the auditorium in which he spoke, Nutter said that he believes it is about being “truthful and honest with your constituents.”

He also thanked faculty and students for the “exciting and invigorating” small-group discussions that preceded the public lecture.  

Michael Nutter and students“It was invaluable to hear lessons from the former mayor of the 5th largest city in the U.S., and it was exciting to pick the brain of someone who devoted their career to serving in local government,” said Maxwell MPA candidate Cristian Ernesto Nuno. “I came to Maxwell with a passion for local government. I knew I was going to receive technical training to be a better public servant, but I did not know I would have a chance to meet mayors! Mayor Nutter candidly shared highlights from his life serving the City of Philadelphia. More so, he inspired students that the world needs more people in local government who are prepared to do the right thing.”

In his introductory remarks about the lecture series and its benefactor W. Lynn Tanner, Campbell Institute Director Grant Reeher relayed a story about a conversation Tanner had with-a former Post Standard columnist about the meaning of the Athenian Oath and its significance to generations of Maxwell students. Quoting Tanner, he said: “It’s a call to think about what it means to be a citizen of your nation or citizen of the world. Do you understand the gift of living in a place that offers you security and safety, the opportunity to acquire wealth, a chance to follow your dreams, to believe what you want to believe without fear of retribution? At Maxwell the message offers a constant challenge for young people to take on the fight to spend a lifetime attempting to lift up the world around them.” 10/19/16