Thursday , 23 October 2014
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Reach out, touch people, because you care

This November, I will be term-limited out after serving almost ten years as a Commissioner in Aventura. As my political days are over, I offer advice to those who are running for political office: “Reach out, touch people, because you care.” Years ago, I had the great honor of serving Hillside, N.J. as City Attorney, Commissioner, Mayor and Municipal Court Judge. It was Hillside, where Arlene and I started going together at age 14, graduated high school together, married and raised our three children.

In 1965, the Hungarian organization in Newark gave up their location and merged with the Hillside Hungarian group. As Mayor, I was invited to give the welcoming speech at the merger celebration at the Hillside Hungarian Hall. I enquired of a Hungarian friend about the make-up of the group. He advised that most were recent immigrants who spoke little English. My friend advised me to give the speech in Hungarian, a language I knew nothing about. “Try,” he said, “It makes a difference.”

I wrote out the proposed welcoming speech in English, gave it to my friend who returned it in Hungarian words. Not a single word sounded familiar. After spending hours memorizing the Hungarian words, my friend spent hours with me on the correct pronunciation of each word. I shall never forget what happened. About 500 people were in attendance when Arlene and I arrived at the Hungarian Hall. The audience was silent as I rose to give the welcoming speech. I suddenly became nervous that I might stumble over the Hungarian words, and I began the speech in English. It was a complete disaster, as I soon lost the audience. Regaining my confidence, I suddenly began the speech in Hungarian. Strange words were coming from me. By my second sentence, the shocked audience became silent. By the fourth sentence, I saw smiling faces focusing on me. By the 6th sentence, the applause began. When I finished the speech, the entire audience stood and applauded, while I took Arlene by her hand as we walked down the aisle. A lesson I offer to others.

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