FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 2, 2010
MAYOR BLOOMBERG SPEAKS AT FUNERAL SERVICE FOR CITY COUNCILMAN THOMAS WHITE JR.
The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s Remarks as Delivered at The Greater Allen AME Cathedral of New York
"Reverend Flake, family of Council Member Thomas White, good morning to everyone. It's sort of easy to say a few words about a man who touched so many. Tom and I had actually more in common than I think anybody realizes. He and I, I think, were the oldest two people working in City Hall. So when we would meet in the plaza or in the lobby, we would always talk about how tough it is to get up in the morning when you get older. Most of you in this room would not know anything about it. But you wait, some day you'll look back and say I know what the Mayor was talking about.
"Anyway, people have described Tom as a mentor, as a father figure, a life changer, a trusted colleague and a first-rate karaoke performer. Actually, Tom's karaoke skills were always the toast of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. And unlike other people who grabbed the karaoke mic, Tom really could sing. And we saw in your performance - that was very good. He must have inherited from you, although the genes don't work that way. The difference was Tom's song of choice was always Frank Sinatra's 'My Way,' and I think that really does say something about Tom and the way he lived his life. He really did it 'his way' - on his own terms - and he helped countless others do the same.
"For Tom, doing it 'My Way' meant believing in second chances. For those of you that don't know this history, he was the co-founder of something called J-CAP, a substance abuse program. He gave thousands of people with substance abuse problems a second chance at life. And I'm told there's a guy who happened to be working in the cafeteria at the hospital where Tom spent his final days, who when he heard that Councilmember White was being treated there, he wanted to thank Tom for his help and tell him that he'd been living clean and sober for years, and it was really because of Tom's guidance. And he said that he was so sad to say goodbye to Tom, and I think we all feel exactly the same way. But you know, there is some comfort in the fact that Tom's good work lives on in the second chances that he got, and hopefully have brought to so many other people.
"For Tom, doing things 'his way' also meant helping young people to find their career paths. When he came across teenagers at protests who were angry about injustices in our community, he'd tell them: If you want to change the system, you have to get into it first. And with Tom's help, many of these young people turned their passions into careers, went back to school, work harder and now are working in the highest levels of government.
"Of course, Tom also lived by his career advice. He 'got into the system,' if you will pardon the expression, by running for City Council. He served his Southeast community so well during the 1990s that many people encouraged him to run for his old seat again back in 2005, and fortunately the voters of his community had the good sense to reelect him. And as Chair of the Economic Development Committee, Tom worked with our administration to bring jobs and opportunity to all five boroughs. He sponsored a number of bills to strengthen women-and-minority-owned businesses and encourage development in the communities that would benefit the most from it. And we're going to continue all the good economic development strategies that he worked so hard to advance. I think that's the best thing we could do in his memory.
"Tom was always a pleasure to work with, and if he ever stopped being a pleasure, his staff knew it was time to bring out the Kit-Kats - Tom's favorite candy. In my work with Tom, I always found him to be a kind and intelligent man who never lost his cool, even when passions ran high. I'll just give you one story, one night in 2005, we got word that a truly horrendous hate crime had been committed in Howard Beach and Tom rushed to meet us at the police precinct. It was a tough night, but Tom stayed until the morning, and throughout it all he remained a voice of reason and calm for the community.
"And as much as Tom loved his work, I will say he loved his family even more - Bryan and Precious and Lamar. I know that the pain of losing your father and grandfather is more than words can express. I hope that it brings some comfort to know how much he loved spending time with you, whether it was getting together for family occasions, watching the Jets and the Knicks play, or cheering on Lamar on the court at Mount St. Michael.
"Tom was proud of the people the he grew up to be with, and the fact that all of you chose careers in public service. And I'm sure that his greatest wish would be for baby Jacob, the youngest grandson, to follow in your footsteps.
"Marie, I'd like to say how sorry I am for the pain you must feel today. Losing a child is not something that any parent should have to go through, but I think it is a blessing to you and to this community and New York City and America, the world, that Tom was able to spend his whole life being guided by you, at your side. He made an enormous difference in this city. You should be very proud, and everyone who knew Tom knew how much he adored you, and how much he was very proud to honor both you and his late father by naming a J-CAP Health Center after you both.
"Doing things 'Tom's Way' meant seeing the potential in each and every person. He helped so many men and women to find themselves, or to better themselves. More than any single piece of legislation, those lives are his legacy. And I'd like to think that now, Tom continues to look down after all the many people he helped from his spot in heaven.
"Now usually funerals are all very sad, but Tom was not a sad guy. I don't think I ever met him - other than maybe in 2005, that one night - that he didn't have a big smile of his face. Just thinking about it, I will say eulogies are never easy to give. Funeral services are never a blessing, but Tom was a very good guy who would want all of us to smile, to say some good things about him, and then get out there this afternoon and go and make this city and this country and this world a better place. Thank you for letting us share this day with you."
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958