CINCINNATI -- It might be easy, at first, to dismiss John Cranley's enthusiasm for the city of Cincinnati as nothing more than the well-rehearsed recitation of a politician seeking re-election.
Easy, but not accurate. Cranley met with anchor Tanya O'Rourke at Incline Public House in Price Hill, the neighborhood where he grew up and where his parents still live. In a candid conversation, he revealed the deep links of family, faith and hope for the future that tie him to the Queen City.
Cranley was an altar boy at his childhood church, where he said he developed the commitments to God and public service that would carry him forward in life.
"I would walk to school at six in the morning to serve Mass, and then I would have to walk home before school started and then walk my brother to school," he said. "So I'd go back and forth in the dark walking to church before school started."
He attended St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati before moving on to Harvard Law and Divinity -- a combination of pursuits that surprised some of his friends and colleagues.
"People ask me why I went to divinity school," he joked. "And I say, 'Because I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, so I wanted to ask for forgiveness in advance.'"
He returned to the Queen City -- for which his praise is both effusive and articulate -- after graduation and has been involved in local politics since 2000, when he ran against Rep. Steve Chabot in the race to represent Ohio's 1st congressional district.
His love for his hometown, he said, is what keeps him coming back for more campaigns, more speeches and (he hopes) more years as mayor of Cincinnati.
"What I see is the greatest city on Earth: All the charm of 19th century architecture with modern day excitement," he said. "We have more Fortune 500 companies headquartered here than anywhere else in America. We have a booming renaissance. Neighborhoods thought to be dangerous 10-15 years ago are bursting with new life."
What else might the public not know about Mayor Cranley? His affinity for public speaking might come from participating in theater programs all throughout high school, college and law school. Although these days he only takes the stage in a political capacity, he still does impressions -- he tried his Bill Clinton for Tanya -- and loves musicals.
"I'm a huge fan of the musical 'Hamilton,'" he said. "I listen to it pretty much non-stop."
Cranley hopes voters will keep him in the room where it happens for another four years, choosing to support his leadership over that of fellow Democrats Yvette Simpson and Rob Richardson Jr. As the May 2 primary approaches, he's keeping the words of Robert Kennedy in mind.
"He used to say, paraphrasing someone else, 'Some people look at things as they are and ask why. Let's dream things that never were and ask why not.'"