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  January 15, 2006

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

On January 16, 2006 New Yorkers, and all Americans, celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, this is the 20th year that Dr. King’s birthday has been recognized as a national holiday. And as it is every year, it’s a good time for us all to take stock of how far we’ve come toward achieving liberty and justice for all, and also what we in public life still need to do to make that dream a reality.

I was thinking about Dr. King last Monday when I swore in the newest class of recruits joining the NYPD. More than 1,100 men and women took the oath, and over half of them were members of minority groups. That’s been true of all the classes we have graduated from the Police Academy in recent years. And that’s an important step forward. Because as the police force comes to more closely reflect the full diversity of our city, trust and communication between the police and all the New Yorkers that they serve will improve, and we will all be safer as a result.

We’re also working to fulfill Dr. King’s dream by keeping New York a city where people of all races and income levels can live and raise families. That’s why, for example, we’re fulfilling our commitment to create new affordable housing for half a million working and middle-class New Yorkers. And it’s also why we’re making $1.3 billion in investments to modernize and expand our city’s public hospitals and clinics - because first-class health care must be a right we all enjoy, regardless of income.

We’re also making progress in increasing employment opportunity for all. We’re leveling the playing field for women- and minority-owned businesses who want to do business with New York City government agencies. And in the private sector, we’re working with labor and management to open up new opportunities in the building trades for the next generation of construction workers - women, veterans, New York City high school graduates, and our returning veterans.

I believe strongly that our schools are the civil rights battlefield of the 21st century. I think Dr. King would be proud of the enormous strides that our black and Latino students have made in closing the performance gap in the City’s classrooms. But he’d also be pointing us forward - urging us to finish the job. And I promise you, we will.

In celebrating Dr. King’s birthday, I, like many of you, attended some of the many events going on all over town that celebrate Dr. King’s life. One took place in Corona, where hundreds of high school and college students spent the day repainting a public school and setting up an emergency food pantry in a community center. What a great tribute to Dr. King, who showed us that we all have a duty to make the American dream a reality and that ‘the time is always ripe to do right.’