The Latest




The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

For my Daughter-in-Law, the Angel

Robin Alexander

Posted on June 6, 2018 12:51

1 user

The subject of eight books, a 1972 stamp, a street in Tel Aviv, an airport, a high school of performing arts, a one-man dramatic performance, and a Pulitzer-Prize winning Broadway musical. Yes, we’re playing Jeopardy. It all started early in the 20th century. Here are more hints.

A charismatic 5’2” dynamo born of an Italian father and Jewish mother (nick-named The Little Flower) serves in three foreign consulates, interprets for the Bureau of Immigration at Ellis Island (speaking six languages), begins a law practice, becomes Deputy AG of New York, gets elected to Congress representing the ethnically diverse East Harlem, rises to the rank of Major during WWI, and runs successfully for President of the NYC Board of Aldermen against the corrupt Tammany Hall candidate. I’m already out of breath and we haven’t gotten to the best part.

Why ramble on about The Little Flower? Because, I have a daughter-in-law who reminds me of him; rather than embarrass her by singing her praises, I’m singing his. She’s just beginning her career, but like this man she is an advocate of immigrants, working tirelessly throughout law school on their behalf. She still does, at a federal level.

The Little Flower returns to Congress (always a Republican), where he remains a die-hard supporter of miners’ rights, labor unions, immigrants, impoverished farmers and oppressed minorities, as well as the League of Nations, peace/disarmament conferences, removing US troops from Nicaragua, greater oversight of Wall Street, and FDR’s New Deal.

He is also feisty as heck. In his 1922 campaign against a Jewish opponent who accuses him of anti-Semitism, he rejects the idea of revealing his maternal ethnicity as “self-serving.” Instead, he publishes an open letter requesting a debate – completely in Yiddish (the letter and the debate).

We’re talking about the beloved 99th three-term mayor of New York City who challenged Lucky Luciano; built low-cost public housing, (two airports), highways, tunnels and bridges; unified the transit system; reorganized the police force; expanded federal work-relief; ended government corruption; and read the comics over the airwaves during a newspaper strike. Fiorello LaGuardia of course.

It’s November 23, 1959, opening night of Bock and Harnick’s musical Fiorello! at the Broadhurst. Soon after, my parents attend and buy the album. Circa 1970 I fall in love with the score.

It’s October 2016, and my son, undoubtedly influenced by maternal wisdom, marries this wonderful woman (greatest wedding ever). Now, every time I hear the opening number, I think of my daughter-in-law, and I get gulpy. The lines that get me:


Your life is an island of grief

Surrounded by woe

When you choose to work on the side of the angels


My hours of leisure are brief

My wages are low

Working with this man on the side of the angels


That bench stays crowded

It’s a regular wailing wall

Penniless and helpless, ignorant and scared

He collects them all!


There’s never a moment’s relief

But this much I know

Each poor soul I see there

Could be me there

So I stay with this man on the side of the angels.


How many public servants these days have the empathy, ethics, commitment and humility of a LaGuardia … or of a certain daughter-in-law?

Robin Alexander

Posted on June 6, 2018 12:51


comments powered by Disqus

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest