Editorial: A dreamer's legacy

Posted: July 15, 2010

Over his varied career as a government aide and Washington lobbyist, Philadelphia lawyer and Rittenhouse Square activist Stuart F. Feldman was a mild-mannered man described by a close friend as "a dreamer who got things done."

It's Philadelphia's great good fortune, in particular, that Feldman, 73 - who died over the weekend - tended to dream big.

Feldman is credited with first proposing the National Constitution Center three decades ago, and later returning to Philadelphia to lay the groundwork that made the Independence Mall attraction a reality in 2003.

In 1989, Feldman was among the first to propose honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a memorial. His modest suggestion to have King's "I Have a Dream" speech carved in stone at a site near the Lincoln Memorial grew into the full-scale monument under construction on the National Mall.

At the controversial height of the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, Feldman - then working as a legislative aide in the U.S. Department of Transportation - began what would be a 10-year effort that resulted in adding billions of dollars in GI Bill scholarship aid for poor veterans.

But the behind-the-scenes man most city residents never knew created his greatest legacy in his hometown by helping to found the Constitution Center. Much more than a tourist attraction, the center will serve to remind generations of Philadelphians and visitors of the power of great ideas.

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