The one point that my mother and father taught me that still inspires me to this day is to not only thank those people you’ve had the honor to work with, but to give them the credit they deserve. To that end, I want to publicly thank my good friend, Pennsylvania state Rep. Mike O’Brien.
Last week it was announced that Mike would not run for reelection even though he had won an incredible decisive win in the primary, but the truth is, his health is just not up to it. His friends watched as he’s been battling — and as he fought to serve — but it became clear that he was not up to it. It was, for the fighter he is, a battle he decided to sit out.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it publicly again: If it were not for Mike, there would be no John C. Anderson building for LGBT-friendly senior affordable living. It was he who took my hand and not only guided me, but at times pushed me, and he also showed me the direction. That $18.9-million project, the only one in the nation built without funds begged from our community, was built in record time and won every building or affordable-living national prize you can imagine.
And what did Mike want for all his efforts? A room named after a school friend who had died of AIDS. Nothing more, but even that was something from the heart, and something that our community can relate to and take pride in.
Mike, a very proud and super-straight (he’ll take offense at that) Irish-American, looks the part of a big bruiser bully. He’s the kind of ally that goes around to those Trump parts of Pennsylvania holding state House hearings and somehow brings the subject to LGBT rights. He can debate our issues as well as anyone in our community I know.
His generosity to our community has been overwhelming; his generosity to his staff as well. His executive director, Mary Issaacson, was, like me, a student of his in learning the state-government process. She earned that post by showing Mike that she was bright, maybe brighter than he is, but Mike wanted smart people to help his district. They became friends and he respected her as a peer. It was almost as though he was training someone to take care of the community that he loves.
But there’s more. Since he respected her as a peer, she’ll go into the House a step above the other freshman representatives. She’ll know how to make things happen since she’s been there. That makes her an asset to leadership and to her district. And as he has taken care of his district and those he has worked with, he leaves a legacy. That legacy doesn’t only consist of the John C. Anderson Apartments, but a host of other senior and affordable-living buildings throughout his district. In fact, you might consider Mike the King of Affordable Living in Philadelphia. And that new Reading Viaduct Rail Park — you should know it was Mike who paved the way.
You might say about a person it’s the size of their heart. And for a representative, it’s the programs, projects and people they have supported and championed. Mike’s a champ with a very large heart.
So the next time you’re in the John C Anderson Apartments, note the Kelley Community Room, and thank Mike O’Brien.
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.