Kevyn Orr on the New Orleans Mayor: 'I Have Rarely, If Ever, Heard a White Guy Speak With Such Passion' About Race

Detroit's former emergency manager praised Mitch Landrieu's speech on race and gave a memorable one of his own. Listen to it here.
by | May 25, 2017
Former Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr giving a speech.
Kevyn Orr (David Kidd)

In a speech to local government officials, former Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr challenged civil servants to use candor, logic and courage in confronting racism and other social inequities. One person already doing that, he said, is New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who recently gave a now-viral speech in defense of his city's removal of Confederate monuments.

"I have rarely, if ever, heard a white guy speak with such passion about the issue of racial inclusion and -- dare I say it -- overdue reconstruction," Orr said about Landrieu. "It is a profile in courage that a young, white mayor will stand up to the forces of derision in a southern city known for a long history of segregation to say the time is now."

Orr, who is now a partner at a law firm in Washington, D.C., was the keynote speaker at Governing's Summit on Government Performance & Innovation in Phoenix.

He talked about the social progress he's seen in his own lifetime: When his mother went into labor in 1958 in Broward County, Fla., she was turned away from the nearest white hospital and told to go to another hospital that served black patients.

"I was born in 1958 amid segregation, and in my lifetime, to go from that beginning to the private sector, Chrysler, emergency manager of Detroit, partner in charge of a Washington, D.C., office, it was inconceivable for my father's generation," Orr said. "The ability in this country to have progress is infinite, but we have challenges to get there."

Listen to the rest of Orr's speech -- in which he recalls the erosion in basic city services that he witnessed in Detroit and the way that undermined citizens' faith in government -- below.

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