The Latin American Law Student Association
(LALSA) on Widener Law’s Delaware campus recently hosted Richard Negrin, Philadelphia Managing Director and Deputy Mayor for Administration and Coordination.
Mr. Negrin spoke to the students in attendance about adversity and overcoming obstacles. Negrin’s personal history made him distinctively qualified to speak on those subjects.
A Cuban immigrant, Negrin saw his father murdered in front of him. Negrin grew up in a tough neighborhood, raised by a single mom, and he spoke very frankly about how he could have become bitter and gone down the wrong path. After his father’s murder, a minister came to the house to pray with the family. The priest asked them to pray for his father but also for the murder. Initially confused, Mr. Negrin later came to realize that the prayer to forgive his father’s murderer was really for him, so that he would not live his life with bitterness. He did say that although he probably should have gone to therapy, that football was his therapy. It kept him off the street and out of trouble.
Extremely engaging and charming, Mr. Negrin asked everyone present to introduce themselves and he encouraged them to ask questions. The large audience of students in attendance to full advantage of the opportunity, and Negrin answered all of the questions put to him with charm, humor, and a quick wit. Some of the students asked how he got into politics, leading him to joke that he would try to talk them out of that career choice.
A student asked him how to overcome what may seem like insurmountable odds. Negrin explained that one cannot be afraid of change and must be willing to face a problem head on. He said that “being an agent of change” energized him, and he tries to translate that into his work through initiatives such as the PhillyRising Collaborative and Philly311, which is designed to make it easier for people to connect with city government.
Negrin has sought to make some of the worst neighborhoods in Philly safe again. He said that he tells the people that government is not the answer but can do a better job, and that the people themselves are the answer. He also promises them that the government is not going anywhere. He observed that throwing money and police at a problem neighborhood does not work and is not a sustainable path. The PhillyRising Collaborative empowers people within the neighborhood to be agents of change and he promises that the government will be in the background and will not be going anywhere. To overcome what may seem like insurmountable odds, one has to look at a problem from a different angle and not be afraid to tackle the problem.
Mr. Negrin stayed beyond the originally allotted time to make sure all questions were answered and to take some pictures with students.