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November 25th, 2009 by John Stephens
Last Tuesday evening the Monrovia City Council honored Ralph Walker for what Mayor Mary Ann Lutz called “not so quiet service to this community for many, many years”, a time span in which Mr. Walker has been enlightening and challenging the citizens of Monrovia and engaging news makers on local issues via his television talk shows “Conversations in Monrovia” and “Beyond the Headlines,” both aired on Monrovia’s KGEM TV public television network.
Mayor Lutz was quick to point out that this recognition had come due at this time not for reasons related to anything other than the fact that “it’s just time” to recognize the service of Mr. Walker, and the Mayor’s introduction was followed by a rousing round of applause from the entire city council and all of those in attendance. The official recognition presented to the television host read: “Presented to Ralph Walker for your many outstanding contributions and longstanding service to the community through public access television for the betterment of Monrovia.”
“Our KGEM studio has been blessed with an announcer, a show host, and a producer who has worked for 15 plus years with KGEM and doing programming [that has been] informing our community about headline news that’s happening here, headline news that’s happening in our region, information and ideas that are happening in our country,” said Mayor Lutz.
Ms. Lutz then asked if Walker would like to say anything to the council in response to the recognition. “Of course you do!” laughed Lutz as Walker took the podium, donned his reading glasses and produced a prepared speech from his coat pocket.
“I want to send thanks to my mother in Chicago, who turns 84 in February,” said Walker. “She has always taught me that you can always help someone less fortunate than you.” He then thanked Judy, his wife of over 30 years, “who has always asked me the question: How did the show go?” as well as his three daughters, all of whom graduated from Monrovia High School with “very fond memories”.
Walker then moved on to thank all the residents of Monrovia who he said have always encouraged him to “do one more show”. Walker also thanked the staff at the KGEM TV studio who “always find a way to make me look good,” as well as members of the local print media that “would take my phone calls at various times of the day when I said ‘You have to do a story on this’”.
The comment was perhaps a gentle, though well-deserved dig at the Managing Editor of this newspaper, who despite often seeming an unreachable apparition, owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Ralph Walker for welcoming him to the community, to his show, and for the ongoing guidance offered to him over the past two years.
Calling Monrovia “a city where things always happen,” Mr. Walker thanked the members of the city council. Then, in a move perhaps unexpected by most members of the council as well as those in the audience, Walker went down the line of Councilmembers, addressing them each individually.
Walker called the campaign of recently-elected Councilman Clarence Shaw “a new set of eyes,” and said that he was honored that those eyes fell upon him today, “while I’m still standing.”
For Councilwoman Becky Shevlin, Walker commended her for saying “just ask”, reminding that “encouraging people to ask is always the first step.”
Councilman Joe Garcia is, according to Walker’s speech, “loved by so many Monrovians, but so many really don’t know you.” Walker then said to Garcia, “Sometimes your silence is deafening.”
To a chorus of light-hearted laughter, Tom Adams was called “the grey old lion on the city council, who decided to stay on the council in this particular race.”
Humor, as well as the pursuit of truth and justice, has always been a large part of Walker’s working philosophy.
Walker then offered a piece of advice to Mr. Adams: “Work with the city council, and history will remember you well.”
For the Mayor, Walker began with an admission that “we know we’ve had our differences in the past,” but moved on with an inspiring quote: “Women have always played a vital role in shaping the future of Monrovia,” Walker told Mayor Lutz. “Now, it’s your turn.”
Walker closed his speech with a sincere offering of thanks to the city and all of those in attendance for the recognition given to him, a recognition the emotional effect of which Walker could not hide from his beaming countenance.
“This has been a journey of over 14 years. And in that time, I hope that I have encouraged just one person to get involved in the community, or changed one thought process so that they can see something in a different light, or take on a different thought.”
Executive Director Lance Mungia then commented on Ralph’s efforts, presenting him with a plaque recognizing his contributions to the television station and the community, calling him “the small wheel, that consistently turns the large wheel”, a quote borrowed from Walker’s initial project proposal submitted to the studio some 15 years ago.
According to Mungia, who said he regretted not relating the full story behind that phrase at the meeting, Walker wrote at that time that he wanted to do a show that focused on people in the community who were just that, small wheels that turn the large wheel.
“A lot of people don’t even realize that Ralph is a volunteer and that he does what he does for this community for free, and that means a whole lot.” said Mungia.