Mothers, Leadership and Poetry: An Interview with Ed Davis

Ed DavisHow many people are like Ed Davis, former police commissioner of Boston? He had a mother who loved poetry.

Davis, who will be one of the featured readers at the March 31 event An Evening of Inspired Leadership, credits her with his first appreciation of poems. “My mother, Helen, was an avid reader of poetry and wrote poems herself. She was published in our local paper once or twice and was very proud of that.” The way she communicated that love to Davis was through sharing. “She read the ‘Wreck of the Hesperus’ to me frequently, and it became the first poem that I memorized.”

 Davis and the marathon bombings

With the Marathon bombings last year, Davis became not just a Massachusetts hero but a national figure. Adrian Walker said of Davis in a Boston Globe column last fall, “(H)is tenure will be defined by the department’s response to the greatest public safety crisis in many years, the Marathon bombings. That performance was nearly flawless. No one has forgotten the panic that gripped Boston in April, or Davis’s sure-handed and reassuring response to it.”

An Evening of Inspired Leadership, which will be at the Boston University Theatre, gives those who attend an opportunity to see another side of the former police commissioner as he, along with many others, reads his favorite poem. The man credited with Boston’s thoughtful and measured response to the bombings also has a thoughtful and measured approach to poetry.  “I did memorize several (poems). The ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ and the ‘Raven’ were two of my favorites. I remember many of the verses today.”

Value of poetry

Davis believes in the value of poetry to students, which is the rationale for the Inspired Leadership readings. All proceeds from the event will help Mass Poetry expand youth poetry programs and bring poetry to public spaces throughout Greater Boston, including free poetry readings in areas with high foot traffic, and poetry in ad space on the MBTA. Davis says, “Poetry exercises your brain. It makes you smarter through reading but also through the process of creating verse. It was also the ‘Social Media’ of its time. Poetry’s importance in history cannot be understated.”

Lowell clock

Lowell clock

But it’s his mother’s dedication to poetry that Davis comes back to. “My mother grew up in Lowell. She would meet her high school friends at the big clock in Kearney Square in the 1940’s. When the clock was being refurbished in the 1990’s, she wrote a poem to commemorate the occasion. It was wonderful.”

In addition to Davis, here are the other well-known leaders who will be reading on March 31: Honorable Governor Deval L. Patrick of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Robert Pinsky, former US Poet Laureate
Professor Ronald A. Heifetz of Harvard University
Jackie Jenkins Scott, President of Wheelock College
Paul Grogan, President of the Boston Foundation
Gerald Chertavian, Founder of Year Up
Joshua Boger, Founder and former CEO of Vertex
Robin Young, Host of “Here & Now” on WBUR
Bill Littlefield, Host of “Only a Game” on NPR
Reverend Barbara Harris, first female Bishop in the Anglican Communion
Giles Li, Executive Director of Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Association
Reverend Gloria E. White-Hammond, M.D., Co-Pastor of Bethel AME Church
Derek Lumpkins, Executive Director of Discover Roxbury
Edward Davis, Former Police Commissioner of the City of Boston.

Reserve your tickets now for an exciting evening. The evening begins at at 7:00 at the Boston University Theatre on Huntington Avenue.