Schaefer took the time to listen

April 20, 2011

While a senior at Goucher College and employed as one of the first Baltimore Urban Corps interns 41 years ago, I was assigned to work part-time with City Council President William Donald Schaefer. My job was to meet with selected people who had written to Mr. Schaefer, figure out what their concerns were, and report back to him. At the same time, he wanted me to produce a white paper on creating an ombudsman who could fairly adjudicate citizen complaints. It was a fascinating job, especially because Don Schaefer actually spent time with me to discuss what I was finding in my travels through the city.

I was much too ignorant then to appreciate how unusual that was. In particular, I remember showing up in Mr. Schaefer's office, overwrought as only a 21-year old could be, not long after the shooting of student demonstrators at Kent State and a large student anti-Vietnam war rally at Goucher. And I recall him patiently saying to me that, as a former military man, he supported the war in Vietnam, but he also wanted to understand why a student like me was so upset.

I've long forgotten the rest of the conversation, but what sticks with me was the conviction that Don Schaefer genuinely was interested in me, just as he was genuinely interested in the concerns of those citizens who wrote to him. In June of 1970, I graduated from Goucher and moved on to graduate school elsewhere. I submitted my white paper to Mr. Schaefer before I left, no doubt disappointing him by recommending he drop the idea of an ombudsman.

I've lived in a number of other places before returning to Maryland five years ago, and was always pleased to hear about the remarkable career of this politician whom I had the privilege to see up close during a significant time in my life.

Marilyn Dahl, Woodstock

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