NEW YORK — Ed Rendell went through the normal pleasantries and thank yous as he delivered his Gold Medal honor address at the Pennsylvania Society before getting to the part he likely hoped would make lawmakers uncomfortable.  

Many of them weren’t there this weekend, having skipped the event because a budget has yet to be passed. Part of the reason that budget has been held up is education. While emphasizing Philadelphia, Rendell said Pennsylvania’s leaders must fix the state’s education crisis to reduce poverty:    

“Don’t vote no on education,” he said, “and ask us to (support) you.”  

Rendell, who specifically mentioned the importance of universal Pre-K in Philly, was the final attraction of a dinner attended by about 1,400 that featured a Mummers performance and the surprise honoring of his wife, Judge Midge Rendell, with the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement. She said that as she nears retirement she plans to spend more time with the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement.  

Before the couple was honored, the Pennsylvania Society played a video address from Bill Clinton praising them.

“He proved that policy matters,” Clinton said of Rendell in the address, “and that with hard work and goodwill government can improve thousands of lives.”

Some old-school photos of Rendell were also displayed before he spoke:

Rendell old school 1
Credit: Mark Dent/Billy Penn
Rendell old school 2
Credit: Mark Dent/Billy Penn

The Pennsylvania Society features dozens of events at some of New York’s most exclusive addresses. Bringing up social justice during a weekend like this can seem contradictory. Rendell made a point of making that connection with regards to the people at Saturday night’s dinner and those enjoying the revitalization of Pennsylvania’s cities.  

“Everyone wants to be in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, yet 10 minutes away from all this good news is the worst poverty in the United States,” he said. “We’ve got to do something about it. This isn’t class warfare. This isn’t income inequality. It’s what we’ve been raised to do all our lives.

“We have an obligation to do something to end all this poverty that exists in the middle of this opulence.”

Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...