For over 200 years, the city of Boston has been run by a male mayor. On the night of November 2nd, history was rewritten.
Michelle Wu, the newly elected mayor of Boston, doesn’t fit the typical profile for mayor as seen in the past. In fact, she defaces its former image entirely.
WU FOR THE WIN
Leading up to the results of the 2021 Boston mayoral election, Boston had been run predominantly by White male precedence within City Hall. In previous mayoral elections, many of the candidates represented this known demographic influence. In fact, some candidates that initially ran in this year’s election were projected to continue this trend. In the initial lineup, John Barros, the city’s former chief of economic development, and Robert Cappucci, a retired Boston Police Officer and longtime resident, fell into the historical pattern. However, in 2021, voters narrowed down an array of diverse candidates — for the first time in over two centuries. Within this selection, candidate Annissa Essaibi George, acting mayor and city council president Kim Janey, and councilwoman Andrea Campbell all proudly identified as being women of color.
In the moments before final election results were released — where Michelle Wu was leading by 32 percentage points — top opponent Annissa Essaibi George conceded to Michelle Wu. History was made, and the city would wake up on a new side of the page detailing the long historic narrative of Boston mayors.
As an Asian-American woman born to immigrant parents, Wu represents more than just a political leader. After graduating from Harvard College and Harvard Law, Michelle Wu first served working for Mayor Thomas M. Menino as a Rappaport Fellow in Law and Public Policy, creating the city’s first guide to the restaurant permitting process. Adding onto her reputation of breaking barriers and creating new lanes, Wu was honored as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Leaders by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and one of the New Guard: 50 Most Influential Women in America, as featured in Marie Claire magazine. Throughout her life, Wu has set a record of either being the first or among the very few.
Her legacy as Boston’s first elected female mayor of color has set the precedent for there being representation in mayoral leadership in the city. While she may hold titles of being the first in Boston to accomplish an unfulfilled feat, Wu’s mission is to ensure that she isn’t the last. Even though she has been given a new platform, she strives to uplift the unsung community leaders who have not.
At the official Michelle Wu watch party, crowds of Bostonians and the press gathered to witness the unfolding of election results. The energy of the crowd was undeniably palpable. As Michelle Wu was announced mayor and ushered onto the stage to make her first speech as mayor, she could have said many things. She could have glamorized her hard work ethic in getting her to where she is today. She could have boasted about claiming the win as her own. Instead, she said something else:
“To the many community leaders, elected officials, labor unions, and every organization that supported us along the way—thank you. I will never stop fighting to make our systems work for all of us.”
This statement exemplifies what all women in leadership can learn from the uphill climb of Michelle Wu. Even while at the top, true leaders look back down at the community who lifted them towards the positions they are in, constantly show gratitude for the village who supported them, and reach out their hands to help others succeed too. Michelle Wu’s story is just one example of how women, especially women of color, can and continue to make moves and change the narrative of the past. By using her platform to bridge the community together, Wu shows the world the powerful connectivity leadership can inspire.
Michelle Wu shows that a true leader first listens to the needs of others and then speaks on behalf of the greater community. A platform for one is earned by all. This lesson rings true in the voice of Wu and the voices of Bostonians nationwide:
“From every corner of our city, Boston has spoken,” said Wu. “We are ready to meet this moment. We are ready to become a Boston for everyone.”