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PR- 009-11
January 9, 2011


The Following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's Remarks as Delivered this Morning

"Merci, Reverend Nicolas. Bonjou' Medanm ak Mesye. Honneur.

"I thought about doing this whole speech in Creole, but you should know that my academic record in high school, my first D was in French. And if I couldn't get through French, I decided I wouldn't get through Creole today. 

"On a much more serious note, I walked into this church this morning with a heavy heart, thinking about the tragic shooting in Arizona yesterday. And while the singing was going on, I said a little prayer for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and everyone who was murdered or injured yesterday.

"I think that millions of people in New York, and in every part of our country and from every corner of the world, are doing the same today. These shootings are just terrible examples, and a terrible reminder, of the gun violence that happens every single day in our country. 

"We don't know all the facts of this case yet, but we do know that every single day, 34 Americans are murdered - every single day.

"Yesterday it was Judge John Roll and five other Americans - and many more, across the fifty states. Tomorrow there will be another 34. And so it will continue until we get serious about cracking down on illegal guns and protecting innocent people.

"I've built a coalition of more than 500 mayors from across the country - from both political parties - who are dedicated to fighting gun violence. It is an uphill struggle, but if all of us join it - if all of us speak out - I believe we really can make a difference and save lives.

"On a more positive note, my visit here is a chance to see an old friend. Or should I say, a friend of longstanding? Reverend Nicolas and I are at the age where we don't call each other old.

"And even though I sent a letter three weeks ago, I am happy to be here in person to say happy 80th birthday. The Scriptures say that 'the years of our lives are three score and ten.' But clearly, Reverend Nicolas is going pretty strong at four score.

"Although, in my family that's not that impressive. Last Sunday, I helped my mother celebrate her 102nd birthday, which translates into five score and two. And I will tell her, because she asks me every day, 'What did you do today?' I will tell her that you all wished her a happy birthday as well. 

"Seven years ago, I went with Reverend Nicolas to Haiti. And when we were there it was like traveling with a rock star. Everywhere we went, people mobbed him. They stopped him on the street. They shook his hand. They hugged him. And I was just happy to pick up the leftover love and good will.

Our trip to Haiti back then had two purposes. One was to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Haiti's independence; and also to deliver humanitarian aid from the city, after three days of heavy rains that had caused terrible flooding that took an estimated 2,600 lives.

"Then last January, as we all know, came a far, far worse disaster: the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince. Some 230,000 people perished - and 1.3 million more are still struggling to rebuild their homes, their communities, and their lives.

"I'm sure many in this congregation lost someone near and dear to you. And the passing months probably haven't dulled the pain you feel. Our heart continues to go out to you, and to the people in Haiti - especially as the anniversary of this terrible tragedy approaches.

"And Tuesday evening, I will be joining Haitian-American New Yorkers - and, indeed, New Yorkers of every race and ethnicity - in an interfaith memorial service at Brooklyn Borough Hall that will honor all those lost in the earthquake and its aftermath. 

"As this sad day approaches, I remember in particular something that I once heard one of the wisest leaders of our age - Nelson Mandela - say on the steps of our very own City Hall when he visited New York a few months after another catastrophe. And that catastrophe was the attack on 9/11. 'Sometimes,' Mandela said then, 'the sorrow of a great tragedy brings out the true strength of the community.'

"And I think that certainly was true after 9/11. And it was true after the Haiti earthquake, too.

"I know that Reverend Nicolas and all of you in this congregation were at the forefront of mobilizing donations of money and supplies in the days and weeks after the earthquake.

"Our Administration took swift action as well. The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City - a non-profit organization that raises money to support City initiatives - immediately set up a special process for accepting donations for Haitian relief. We recruited volunteers to help with the flood of calls they received. To date, I'm happy to say, they've collected more than $2.2 million in donations.

"And they've sent every penny directly to organizations in Haiti engaged in recovery, relief, and rebuilding - groups like Doctors Without Borders, which I've supported for a long time, the Red Cross, and Habitat for Humanity.

"We also, you should know, established a process jointly with the City Council Speaker Christine Quinn by which more than 3,500 City employees contributed to Haitian relief directly from their paychecks.

"We also deployed members of our Urban Search and Rescue Team - 80 highly trained police officers and firefighters - to Port-au-Prince. In the days immediately after the earthquake, they pulled six survivors out of the rubble - including two children who had been trapped for an incredible seven days. That truly was a miracle.

"Our work hasn't stopped there. Doctors from our public hospitals went to Haiti to provide emergency treatment. Our Office of Immigrant Affairs helped hundreds of Haitians in our city acquire 'Temporary Protected Status,' allowing them to find work here and send money home.

:Our public schools made a concentrated effort to help the hundreds of Haitian students who poured into our city after the earthquake. Our Office of Emergency Management trained more than 400 volunteers in Haiti who are helping their communities recover and rebuild.

"And this summer, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly - who's been assisting the people of Haiti since his days with the Administration of President Bill Clinton - assigned Creole-speaking officers of the NYPD to Haiti to help law enforcement officers there improve public safety and security in areas ravaged by the earthquake.

"Helping our neighbors in times of distress, it's a great tradition in Haiti, and in New York City as well, I'm happy to say. We were glad - we are glad - to do our part.

"We recognize that there is so much more to be done. And we'll continue to do all we can to see that the people of Haiti get the assistance they need to rebuild their beautiful nation.

"There's also another great tradition in New York City - and before I close my remarks this morning, I just wanted to say a few words about it, too. It is a tradition symbolized by the Statue of Liberty in our harbor: The tradition of welcoming immigrants to our city.

"Now, let me be as clear as I can: I believe that the nearly 40 percent of our city's people who are immigrants are a great economic, cultural, and social blessing for New York City. And I believe that the future prosperity of our city depends on our continuing to attract more immigrants from every corner of the globe.

"That's why so long as I am Mayor, this is going to continue to be the most immigrant-friendly city in the world. It is why we're going to keep making our streets safer, our schools better, and our economy stronger for New Yorkers, immigrant and native-born.

"It is also why last year we helped form an organization of business leaders and mayors from around the country called the Partnership for a New American Economy.

"Our goal is to bring about sensible immigration reform that secures our nation's borders, invites more immigrants here, and also creates a pathway for more people who are already here to become citizens.

"And I think doing that will honor our values and heritage as a nation of immigrants, and will keep America's economy growing.

"I know the debate on immigration can sometimes be divisive. But with the great challenge that America faces today, division is exactly what we don't need.

"Because I believe in the motto inscribed on the flag of Haiti. L'Union Fait La Force - In Unity There Is Strength. And I believe that for America to remain strong, we must remain united.

"Not native-born against immigrant. Not people from one region or race aligned against others. But all of us united as Americans, and as God's children. If we do that, then the best days for our nation, and our city, are still truly ahead of us.

"So thank you all for allowing me to join you this morning. Happy New Year - Bonne Année - once again. And God bless."


Stu Loeser   (212) 788-2958


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