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Inaugural Address

January 1, 2002
See the archived video of the inauguration ceremony

Thank you - Reverend Clergy, Elected Officials, Honored Guests, my fellow Citizens.

I am honored and humbled to serve as the 108th Mayor of the City of New York.

Let me begin by saluting the leadership that Rudy Giuliani has provided over the last 8 years.

In our darkest hour, he was a ray of hope, a voice of reassurance to millions.

He made us all proud and he reminded the world that New Yorkers don't quit.

Everyone, please stand again and join me in honoring Mayor Rudy Giuliani. I just want you to know that last night in Times Square when Rudy swore me in, he said to me, "Don't fail our people." Rudy, I will not.

I also want to recognize former Mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins who have devoted their lives to serving the City of New York. Everything we do is built on your service in the past, gentlemen- Thank you both!

Today we celebrate the orderly transfer of power through a democratic process.

Here in New York, we understand - all too well - the price of our liberty.

Just half a mile from these steps, we lost 3,000 of our friends, family, neighbors and co-workers, including more than 400 heroes who gave their lives to save others.

On the worst day in our City's history, we were at our best.

We saw the spirit of New York in our unity of purpose. Our police, firefighters, and emergency service workers exemplified the highest ideal of our national character.

That sacrifice continues- Today, Americans are fighting terrorism around the world - and here at home, our uniformed services continue the task of ensuring our safety.

I pledge that my administration will strive --- in everything we do --- to honor the memory of those we have lost - and honor those now fighting for our freedoms. We will rebuild, renew, and remain, the Capital of the Free World.

To meet the challenges facing our city, we must work together, to draw upon the energy, entrepreneurship, and the talents of all New Yorkers.

We are the toughest, most resilient, and most determined people on the planet. Throughout our history, New Yorkers have always made the sacrifices necessary to achieve a better tomorrow- and there will be a better tomorrow.

In the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s, Governor Hugh Carey brought together the city, the state, labor, and business. He went to Washington to deliver our message. And he prevailed.

This time, Washington came to New York. Within days of the tragedy, President George W. Bush stood at Ground Zero, and pledged that America stands with our City.

Thank you, Mr. President for all you have done, and all you will do to fulfill that explicit pledge.

We are also indebted to the leadership of United States Senators, Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, and to the Dean of our Congressional Delegation, Charlie Rangel.

They and their colleagues are the ones who represent us so ably in Washington.
And together, we pledge to the President, and to the Congress, we will justify America's support.

In Albany, we are fortunate to have a Governor, George Pataki, who understands and appreciates the importance of our city. I look forward to working closely with the Governor, and with our State Legislative leaders, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who have been so supportive.

As Mayor, I will form a "new partnership" with Washington, with Albany, with our City Council, with our Borough Presidents, with our Community Boards, with our municipal unions, with business and with all New Yorkers.

The people have asked us to set aside partisan differences, to overcome traditional barriers, and to cooperate in this "new partnership." This is an historic moment. We cannot afford to fight with each other. We must work together.

I am especially pleased that my good friend for 30 years, John Whitehead, has assumed the Chairmanship of the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corporation.

John and his committee have been charged by Governor Pataki and Mayor Giuliani with coordinating all the proposals for rebuilding the World Trade Center site, and we know he and his committee will arrive at a consensus we all can support.

And as we must rebuild lower Manhattan, so we must also invest time and effort throughout our entire city.

As Toni Morrison has said, "New York is the last true city," and it is the vitality of our neighborhoods that define us: those streets where we work, raise our children, form friendships and learn the values that we carry through life.

New York has been, and will continue to be, a magnet for people from all over the world. This is where the arts, business, research and technology converge to create the world's foremost urban economy.

Based on my experience building a business here in New York, I can guarantee that New York is the best place in the world to do business.

No city can match New York for its intellectual capital, financial know-how, and cultural vibrancy.

To our corporate leaders, I urge you to strengthen your commitment to New York.

This is no time to leave the "Big Apple."

Your future is New York - And New York's is better than ever. I have said it before and I want to say it again --- New York is safe, strong, open for business, and ready to lead the world in the 21st century.

We will continue to improve our quality of life and attract visitors, tourists, and businesses in record numbers.

We will focus on public safety. We will work tirelessly to provide safe streets and homes for all New Yorkers. We will go forward. We will never go back.

We will focus on adding and retaining jobs for all our people. The ability for everyone to have the skills and opportunity to feed one's family is the basis for a free, healthy, democratic society--and we must ensure all have it.

We will improve our public schools. Parents must know that their children are safe and receiving an education that prepares them for the future is what they demand.

We will test our educators. We will test our students. But the real test is that of political resolve, the test of ourselves. The need is real. The time is now. Without authority there is no accountability. The public, through the Mayor, must control the school system.

To do this, I will build a partnership with the Governor, our state legislature, the city council, the Borough Presidents, the teacher's union, and parents. Together we will create a school system that works for all our children.

Rebuilding our city, restoring our infrastructure, continuing the fight against crime, and reforming our schools will not be easy in the current economic climate.

It will require tough decisions and hard choices by all of us, in government, the non-profit sector, business, and labor. I will be asking all parts of my city government to do more, with less.

I will ask for their help, and I will seek their advice. But the facts are clear. We will not be able to afford all that we want. We will not even be able to afford everything we currently have.

And since leadership means setting an example, and in my book, the search for efficiency always begins with the top,

I pledge to reduce staffing in the Office of the Mayor by 20 percent.

And I hereby challenge the Comptroller, Public Advocate, Borough Presidents and City Council to do the same.

We cannot ask of others what we are not willing to do ourselves. I will do my part to balance the budget- as I am sure every City employee will do in turn.

Let me say once more though, we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. We cannot drive people and business out of New York.

We cannot raise taxes. We will find another way.

And even though we must sacrifice now, let us not forget we are still a City of big dreams, of big ideas, big projects and a big heart. We must plan and develop for the long term. We can never abandon our future.

We will bring new life to our waterfront and stimulate new investment in housing, schools, and when we can afford them, the world's best cultural and athletic facilities.

These along with our parks and transportation infrastructure in all five Boroughs cannot be ignored. We will plan now, and build as funds become available.

We will emerge from short-term pain to long-term gain.

This is a City where 140 languages are spoken. Since the days of the Dutch, wave after wave of immigrants have transformed this city.

They have flourished, because of the culture of tolerance and acceptance that characterizes New York.

Our challenge is to strengthen that culture and fight bigotry in any form, wherever it may happen.

I will not allow any form of bias to drain our energy or divide our communities.

Those of us in government must remember that we are here to work with and serve all 8 million New Yorkers.

When I launched my campaign in Queens, I said my only regret was that my father did not live to see my dreams come true.

I want all New Yorkers to have the same opportunity my father wanted for my and sister and me, the opportunity to pursue one's dreams.

In the next four years, I will devote myself to building a better New York. I promise that I will govern, free from partisanship and prejudice.

I promise that I will listen and, whether you ultimately agree with my decisions, you will know that your voice has been heard.

On election night I vowed to build the best government this city has ever seen -- an inclusive, diverse, energetic, and innovative government... the right team to lead our city through these difficult times.

I am very proud of the administration we're assembling, but government alone can't find the solutions to all of our problems.

It is not in City Hall, but in the Rockaways, Bay Ridge, Washington Heights, New Dorp and Belmont - there, and in hundreds of neighborhoods throughout this great City are many of our answers.

Together we will make the hard choices. We will forge a new partnership that binds all New Yorkers to meet our challenges head on. And we will prevail.

Thank you... and God Bless New York.