In the early 1990’s, at the height of the AIDS epi­demic, there was a shortage of courage among many polit­ical leaders. That was why I was sur­prised when I heard that a little-​​known city coun­cilor from Hyde Park was taking a public stance that needle exchange should be con­sid­ered as a way to slow the spread of HIV. Needle exchange was (and still is in many cir­cles) too con­tro­ver­sial for most elected offi­cials to sup­port, in spite of the sub­stan­tial body of evi­dence that it was effec­tive. When I heard he was from Hyde Park, not a neigh­bor­hood that had felt the full impact of the epi­demic, I won­dered, “Who is this guy?”

That guy, it turned out, was Tom Menino. And in classic Menino style, he wasn’t taking the posi­tion he took because it was polit­i­cally pop­ular to do so. It wasn’t. He was taking the posi­tion because he thought it was the right thing to do.

It was sev­eral more years before I actu­ally met him. I heard he was looking for someone to head up the newly cre­ated Boston Public Health Com­mis­sion. I wasn’t inter­ested in the job. I thought that the task was too over­whelming – pulling together 50 or more rel­a­tively small pro­grams into a single depart­ment at a time when resources were lim­ited and most of the atten­tion was focused on sup­porting the suc­cess of the nascent Boston Med­ical Center. But I remem­bered the story of his courage in the AIDS epi­demic, and I wanted to thank him.

Read the article at WBUR →