Landover resident Eugene Speed, winner of the 1984 National Amateur Boxing Championship, climbed the steps to the Prince George's County Council chamber in his pin-striped suit, his father following closely.
Speed was about to be honored with a proclamation -- printed on heavy stock and containing a lot of whereases and therefores -- commending him for his quick feet and awesome jabs.
Proclamations are a regular order of business from the United States Senate to tiny city halls across the country. Typically, the ceremonies are concluded with handshakes, a slap on the back and photographs.
In Prince George's County, the council finds reason to celebrate nearly every week: Last year, the nine-member board, in a move of self-restraint, capped the number of award ceremonies at five per meeting.
In all, 116 were issued in 1984, while neighboring Montgomery coughed up only 19. But this year that number could easily double if awards are issued at current levels.
Tuesday, Frank Hardin and Jackson Weaver, longtime kingpins of morning radio here, were honored by the Montgomery council with a proclamation calling the witty pair "our community bulletin board."
Today was declared "Hardin and Weaver Day" in the county, in honor of their 25th anniversary on the air.
The tongue-in-cheek proclamation further thanked Hardin and Weaver for their radio talk-and-news show, which it said "elevates the spirits, provides healing for the psyches and otherwise soothes the savage beasts who rage about the Beltway in their vehicles and who, without the calming influence of these gentle voices, would commit countless acts of reckless violence and mayhem and whereas, without the sage counsel of Hardin and Weaver, thousands of luckless citizens, including our tender, innocent youth, would brave the elements at the risk of life and limb and fender only to find the school closed, the bake sale canceled, and the 15th anniversary auction banquet and beer bust of the Benevolent Order of the Wombats postponed until the second Thursday of April."
On Jan. 8, the day Speed was honored in Prince George's, the Oxon Hill Boys and Girls Club "Anklebiters" football team also showed up to be lauded.
But that was a light week. Recent meetings of the council in Upper Marlboro have produced the maximum number of citations allowed.
On Feb. 5, for example, the council met its quota, awarding paper to a high school soccer team, a beauty queen and a Washingtonian of the Year, and honoring Literacy Volunteer Week and Black History Month.
Usually there are a dozen to 25 proclamations a month, said Don Hirzel, press spokesmen for the council.
"After a while it becomes unruly," he said, adding that things "usually wane in December and the summer months."
"Traditionally, one of the things we're elected to do is recognize people," said Council Chairman William B. Amonett after a recent meeting. "It becomes a heightened thing when people are elected by district."
Amonett was referring to changes that were made in 1980 when voters decided to trim the council from 11 to nine members and elect them by district rather than at large. That change, he said, has caused members to be more sensitive to their constituents, and one result is that the number of proclamations has surged.
Still, the pomp of these ceremonies overshadows regular business. At the Feb. 5 meeting, after 90 minutes of proclamations, Amonett was forced to plow furiously through the agenda so that council could adjourn at noon for lunch. He barely made it.
But council members took it all in stride, lauding the benefits of recognizing a job well done, a talent seldom exposed.
"Proclamations are one of the most important things we do," insisted council member Frank Casula.
And unlike resolutions and bills that can cost taxpayers money, proclamations are a relative bargain at a little more than $75 a shot.Don Patterson, the commissioned photographer, develops 12 prints of each picture and returns them to the council within 24 hours. Hirzel then fowards the prints to county newspapers.
"I wouldn't call it proclamations frivilous," said council aide Samuel Wyncoop. "There's a certain hokeyness when you see it day in, day out, but those people being proclaimed are coming from a different point of view."
Council member Sue V. Mills concurred: "Proclamations are as much a part of Americana as popcorn, movies and clotheslines," she said.