Over 2,500 people filled the three tiers of historic Symphony Hall Tuesday night to hear Boston Mayor Marty Walsh deliver his first state of the city address. The venue was significant for two reasons: It was a symbolic recognition of the energetic contribution that the arts make to Boston, and by bypassing Faneuil Hall -- the site favored by the late Tom Menino -- Walsh telegraphed with respectful directness that he is the steward of the future.

Walsh may not be a great orator, but he is generally an excellent communicator. He was at the top of his game, establishing long-term goals and unveiling a punch-list of practical programs.

Walsh chose not to recognize long-term challenges such as Boston’s large un-funded pension liabilities ($1.5 billion), or grapple with the immediate issue of the school department’s projected budget shortfall ($16 million).

There was, however, no ambiguity in the mayor’s view of the moment.

Standing before a bright blue background with the words “thriving, healthy, innovative,” Walsh began his address by proclaiming his administration is delivering the best results ever in city services, and is more diverse and representative of the city’s citizens than ever before.

“I’m pleased to report that the state of our city is strong and getting stronger.”

Nevertheless, Walsh said Boston still faces challenges.

He addressed the need to improve the educational system, announcing the creation of a free college savings account program, as well as the first plan in decades to overhaul substandard school buildings, and to oversee that process, a new Boston School Building Authority.

“And I’m just getting started. We will not be satisfied with anything short of success for every child, in every family, in every school and every community in this city.”

Turning to housing, Walsh said he recognized rents are rising beyond many families’ reach. He said the city would put $20 million toward affordable homes make 250 city-owned properties available to build on.

“I want to talk about our ultimate housing crisis: homelessness.”

Walsh adopted a personal tone in addressing his decision to abruptly close the Long Island bridge. For years, he said, he drove out to the homeless shelter on the island every other week to talk to residents about addiction recovery.

“I know them. I know their stories and I certainly know their struggles. I have worked, in every way I know how, to help them.”

That did not stop a small group of protesters from displaying a sign: "People Are Dying. Long Island. Where's Marty?"

Walsh said the Long Island tenants are being connected with housing, and announced the creation of what he said was the nation’s first Office of Recovery Services.

“This isn’t just policy to me. It’s personal.”

Boston's bid to host the 2024 Olympics was treated as just one of many initiatives. Still, in Walsh’s mind, it has the potential for historic, perhaps even philosophical impact. Win or lose, Walsh said, Boston will benefit from the discussions and planning that takes place over the next few years.

Walsh briefly touched on other plans without providing much detail: a call to “re-imagine City Hall Plaza,” upgrade public spaces, increase water bill discounts for seniors, and appoint a so-called “start-up czar” to help new businesses get their footing in Boston.

Walsh also spoke about the protests over police killings of men in Ferguson and New York city. He said he was proud of Boston’s response to the events, and praised both the city’s police and protesters.

“I know from my own life that you can’t move forward unless you reach out and deal honestly with the past. The truth is that when it comes to race and class, Boston has a lot of unfinished business. We must not be afraid to talk about it.”

Reaction to Walsh’s speech was mostly positive. Incoming attorney general Maura Healy said Walsh’s candid tone impressed her.

“He spent time with so many people – people who are homeless, people who are going through hard times, people who are in recovery or dealing with addiction issues. And I think that personal knowledge and the humanity he brings to the conversation is so important, as a leader.”

A somewhat tougher reviewer, Republican State Senator Bob Hedlund, said Walsh gave a good speech but it wasn’t worth an “A” grade.

“On delivery I would give him high marks. On content I would give him a B.”

Roxbury City Councilor Tito Jackson said he appreciated Walsh acknowledging the inequities and disparities that linger in Boston. But Jackson wanted to know more about many of the new programs announced.

“I’m looking for specifics on price tags. There are a lot of aspects of this that will have to play out in the budget cycle, and I will be looking forward and have my ears open relative to what the checkbook is going to say relative to these issues.”

That’s the conversation that will take place over the next weeks and months, as Walsh embarks on his second year as Boston’s mayor