It’s a difficult thing to grasp: Maurice Ferré is no longer with us. How can that be? Miami without Ferré is inconceivable, unacceptable, impossible to fathom.
I started my political career in 1979. — four decades ago. In those days we all aspired to be like Maurice: cerebral, trilingual (English, Spanish and French), involved in all the “big decisions” (to quote Adlai Stevenson) and the “big enthusiasms” (to quote Teddy Roosevelt).
We didn’t always agree, but we were always respectful as we contended for public office several times in 1983, 1985, 1987, 1996 and 2001. I won more of those contests than he did, but he got more total votes than I did.
And we remained friends. More than friends. We were family. He had a Francisco, who died in a tragic airplane crash. I had a Francis, who went on to follow in Ferré’s footsteps, as much as mine. Maurice took him under his wing from day one, and treated him as a protégé through his rise to the city mayoralty.
For a few glorious years, all three of us sat on the county’s transportation planning organization, where we clashed on various issues, but always as gentlemen. When Maurice spoke everyone listened. There was a passion, an exuberance, a vitality that echoes Stevenson’s eulogy of John F. Kennedy, when he said that he was “so involved in our world, so immersed in our times, so responsive to its challenges, so intense a participant in the great events and the great decisions of our day that he seemed like the very symbol of the vitality and exuberance that is the essence of life itself.”
In the twilight of his political life, I would trek to his home in the Grove to discuss politics, life, and what scientists call the “theory of everything.” His intellectual curiosity had no bounds, and he thus became the ideal person to introduce me as I did my best to share my theory of everything with my readers.
The last of those book presentations was at Books and Books, and my book had the bombastic title of “Science and the Theory of God.” Maurice’s introduction of the author was so brilliant, so humorous, so entertaining, that it totally overshadowed my own remarks.
In the end, Maurice Ferré literally put Miami on the international map. One time, when discussing Ferre’s global presence, Atlanta Mayor Andy Young, who had also been United Nations Ambassador, said of him that “when I grow up I want to be like Mayor Ferre.”
Ferré leaves a large, beautiful family. His devotion to family was evident when they accompanied him as we named a seaside park (formerly Museum Park) after him. The diversity of the audience that day was emblematic of what Miami stands for and what Ferré made us realize and proclaim with pride.
That is his legacy and it will be a long, long time before anyone can eclipse it, or even approach it.
Miami- Dade Commissioner