Former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke concedes that a visit from a public official can either be entirely forgettable or a very important experience for a young person.
For him, it was meeting then-Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin as an elementary school student. "I'm 50 now, and I still remember that. It's something that has stuck with me for a long time."
For Laura Bradley, it was meeting Schmoke.
Yesterday, more than 13 years after he promised to hand then 4-year-old Bradley her high school diploma, Schmoke fulfilled that promise.
Bradley was a kindergartner at East Baltimore's William Paca Elementary School in 1987 when Schmoke visited her class.
"He told the entire class that if they graduated in the year 2000, he would hand them their diploma," Bradley said.
Bradley, who graduated from Western High School on June 3, was joined yesterday by her family at the Legg Mason building in Schmoke's office for a small ceremony.
"I made that promise to a number of classes because I recognized that if I was in office for at least two terms, I would basically be the only mayor [the graduating class of 2000] ever knew," said Schmoke, who is now a lawyer with Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering.
With a faint recollection of Schmoke's visit and promise, Bradley turned to her father, Bob, who recalled the event instantly.
Bob Bradley, 62, a retired businessman and city resident, decided to see if Schmoke would honor the promise because it would make his daughter, "feel so very, very good."
Three weeks ago, Bob Bradley called Schmoke.
"He remembered the promise right when I brought it up to him, and he said he'd do it," said Bob Bradley. "The mayor doesn't have to do anything like that, but Mr. Schmoke agreed."
The event held extra meaning for Laura Bradley, 17, because her actual graduation was not too fulfilling. On March 15, Bradley gave birth to a son, Timothy. The pregnancy and birth forced her to miss a lot of school and lowered her grade point average.
Because of the low average and attendance problems, Bradley was not allowed to stand on the stage with her classmates at Western graduation.
"I got something a lot better today," Bradley said smiling.
Holding "T.J." - Timothy - Bradley approached Schmoke, who flashed her a smile and said to T.J., "I'm not in the business anymore, but I'll give you a kiss," as he pecked the boy's cheek.
Schmoke, whose wife, Dr. Patricia Schmoke, is a Western graduate, then handed Bradley the diploma telling her, "This represents a lot of hard work ... It's a new start to a new millennium."
Later, Schmoke said, "I learned more about her story today, and you have to give her credit for her tenacity. I was glad to live up to a promise today; it makes you feel good."