Independence Day weekend - in addition to being a time to see great professional fireworks displays and relax with family and friends - is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how much we treasure our independence as Americans and New Yorkers.
Our city is thought of as the quintessential modern metropolis, but many people don't realize that during and after the war for independence, when the colonies were struggling to become a nation, New York City was a critical center of revolutionary activity.
After the Declaration of Independence was signed on the Fourth of July, 1776, New Yorkers toppled a statue of King George III that used to stand in Bowling Green. In late 1776, British forces invaded the city, routing General George Washington's army and forcing the retreat of the soldiers of the United States. Under British occupation, New York City became the main site for holding American prisoners of war. Our infrastructure and economy were severely damaged by the occupation.
Our independence as a city was hard won. Troops finally evacuated the city in 1783 - 215 years ago, and restructuring of the City and city government began. It's inspiring to think of how far we've come since then. Just look at our skyline, our neighborhoods, and our people, and you'll see that our tremendous growth and success are due to the way that the United States, and New York City in particular, have stood for freedom and independence, and the sanctity and responsibility of the individual.
We've been able to achieve such diverse and dynamic growth because, in each generation, we have embraced people from every nation, religion and background and enabled them all to explore their potential as active participants in our economy and democracy. This constant process of evolution - of investing in the opportunity of the individual - continues to shape our City into the capital of the World, as the largest and greatest city in our great country.
Let's remember the words of the Declaration of Independence, which have been defended not only by early revolutionaries like Washington and Jefferson but by men and women throughout our history. It reads, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Thank you, and I hope you enjoy the rest of this wonderful holiday weekend.