"I think a lot of it is actually goes back to my upbringing in the Cook family," Cook said. "My mom and dad always wanted me to - and I know moms and dads tell their kids all the time 'don’t worry about what other kids are doing you just do the right thing.' It’s easy for people to say that but it’s a hard lesson to really learn. Human nature is you want to go along with the crowd."
Songs Over Speeches
Some may joke that he's "The Singing Mayor" or "The Mayor with the Guitar" but Cook takes it all in stride and doesn't think the titles or his guitar playing and singing distract from his accomplishments.
"I think that’s just jealousy that people wish they could sing and play," Cook said with a straight face but clearly showing his ever-present humor. "When people ask me to come and speak, they’ll say 'bring the guitar.' I don’t bring the guitar unless people ask for it. So people are asking me to bring the guitar and play a song for them. I think that’s just part of the human side of me. I’m not a robot. I’m a person, a human being first and mayor second."
Songs also help him get his message across whether he's singing "El Paso's Your Land" - his version of "This Land is Your Land" - or whether he's writing a song about civil rights. He wrote the song "I'm Gonna Take a Stand" about his stance on the domestic partners issue and performed the song at an event to raise funds to reduce his debts from his legal battles.
"... The idea of the song was to ask people if they would stand with me. To stand with me over what I thought was a significant civil rights issue. To me, the whole domestic partner issue was never about gay rights it was about human rights and that all human beings are created equally," Cook said. "You could write a three minute speech about something and just totally miss the point. Your three minute speech would probably end up being five or 10 minutes and then you would not make an impression at all on the audience. Whats beautiful about a poem or a song is you have a very limited amount of space to try to get your idear across. So you want to make sure all the critical components, what it is you want to say, are there. And then the challenge is how you put it to music. In this particular case, I think it worked very well because not only did I get my point across, but I actually had the audience singing with me."
He can talk seriously about issues but his humor is always there, including a late fall 2012 day when the mayor took 30 minutes for an important medical test that just happens to be in front of reporters and photographers.
“If it comes out positive, I guess it will be on the front page of the newspaper,” Cook said while waiting 20 minutes for his AIDS test results.
It didn’t take long for Cook’s humor came through.
“How do you identify yourself sexually?” asked the man administering the test and filling out paperwork.
“Good,” Cook said, which got a laugh from the media. “I was going to say ‘on a scale of 1 to 10 – 10.’”
The mayor had charitable reasons for turning his private moment into a photo op.
“I thought it was important for AIDS awareness,” he said. “To show there’s nothing wrong with getting a test. It’s not an indictment on your lifestyle; it’s to make sure you’re safe from a very dangerous disease. So I can get other people in the community to agree to have an AIDS test and show how simple it is.”
It's a moment of humility that shows what kind of man he is.