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Transcript: Mayor Adams Hosts and Delivers Remarks at Interfaith Breakfast

February 28, 2023

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Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thank you. And it is clear that all of you are new. Because if you weren't new you'd know the rule. You don't stand for me, I stand for you. I stand for you. But I am going to ask just people I have grown to adore and just love so much, I'm going to ask my team to stand up. Those who're in administration, Sue, Ydanis, and Fred of this amazing team of my… You heard from my chief advisor, but also I have here my amazing chief of staff, Camille. I don't know if Sheena's here, my first deputy mayor. And just an amazing, amazing, amazing team. And I just cannot thank them enough. And I wanted to thank Dr. Marx for opening the library to allow us to come in.

And a long time friend Iris is here also. Congratulations. I saw your husband, he said you got a new grandchild. Congratulations to you as well. And just all of you who have been with me on this amazing journey for so many years. And I want to just touch on a few items and then allow us to really exchange greetings with each other. And I thought Pastora Rodriguez, what I do often that I would encourage you to do is to go into houses of worship that do not speak the language that I'm familiar with. If I'm speaking Spanish or Greek Coptic church or a Sikh temple, go into those houses of worship and you will begin to fully understand how God does not speak with us in language, he communicates through our hearts. And I did not have to be fluent in Spanish to know what you were saying to me and understanding every word of it.

This is an important time. And I say it over and over again when I wake up, it scares me that I'm not scared. I do not wake up one day believing, as mommy would say, "Baby, you got this." New Yorkers, we got this. We got this. And you have to really transform from reading to believing. Regurgitating a scripture or the Quran or a religious text is not believing. It is reading. And when you have gone through what I have gone through, you have to say to yourselves, "There is no way that the creator has taken me this far to leave me." It's just not possible. The creator had so many times to leave me, so many times to abandon me, but she has not.

And I talk about this often that I want to share with this group. When I was growing up in South Jamaica, Queens, I was learning how to box and every time I would get in the ring, I would lose the fight. And my trainer will say, "Eric, the problem is you leave your best fight in the gym and you're supposed to take it into the ring with you." And that is what has happened to many of us. The synagogue is the gym. The church is the gym. The Sikh temple is the gym. The mosque is the gym. You are there for training. You are not there to leave your best worship in the gym. Cause if we are bringing our best fight in the ring, we would not have homeless in this city. We would not have a crisis of domestic violence. We would not have children because when we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools. So the reflection point of today, when we do an analysis of these annual coming-together, is to state, "Are we leaving our best fight in the gym? Are we finding ways to really take what we took in the gym and bring it into the real fight?"

Because the fight is in the Bronx where gun violence is moving to a level that is frightening for all of us. The fight is in Brooklyn, in the Army Terminal where we have several hundred young people, men, who want to experience the American dream. The fight is in our senior centers where our elders are dealing with the issues of loneliness and no one is there to cornrow their hair or put oil on their feet or just to sit down and communicate with them. The fight is in our shelters where if you grow up in the shelter, you are less likely to graduate from high school. And if you don't educate, you will incarcerate. The fight is in the foster care, 6 to 700 age out every year. They're more likely to be homeless, unemployed, mental health issues. That is the fight. That's the gym. That's the gym. And I know so well about what it's like to take your practice in the gym to actually implement it in your life.

I tell a story all the time growing up in our small storefront church. We used to call it the Cheers church. Everyone knew your name and everyone was glad you came. Wasn't big, it wasn't elaborate. Two services, Reverend Daughtry, we went at day. Take a break, come back at night. We would come back in that evening. Then at middle time, you would eat. Mom couldn't afford to feed the six of us. And those elders, those women of the church who delivered food to our house and then just to look in the boxes and notice that the boxes were open, half a box of spaghetti, half of a box of cheese crackers, half a jar of oatmeal. And they didn't have money to buy us groceries. They gave us half of what they had.

So the problems of today, they're not new. Our response is not old because the old response is what I remember during Easter time, having the neighbors come together and leave six pairs of shoes and slacks on our back porch. I remember the old response of Thanksgiving leaving canned goods and a turkey on the back. I remember the old response of Christmastime wrapping up gifts. I remember the old response of just slipping $50 under the door and tell mommy it was all right. I remember the old response. We became so modernized that our new response is to act like we don't see the despair that people are experiencing every day.

We’ve become so hip, so cool, so Instagram-ish, so Facebook-ish, so Twitter-ish, that we have TikToked our way out of the humanity that we've always known. And then we say to ourselves — this is what I find interesting, Sue — we say to ourselves, "What's wrong with these children? What's wrong with these kids?" Let me tell you something about being a child. Children look for indicators that are they moving in the right direction? You ever see your baby when all of a sudden they're doing something wrong and they look over and peep at you and to see what's going on? Now, when they peep over to see if they're doing something wrong, the parents are doing the same thing. We have abandoned the role of what it is to be a parent.

We have to be honest about it. Our children are getting up in the morning, on their way to school, they're stopping at the local bodega and they get in gummy bears that's laced with cannabis, and they're sitting in the classroom and we are asking, "Why can't our children read and write? Why don't they behave?" We are destroying our next generation, destroying them. And we say over and over again, "We need to build a world that's better for our children." No, we need to build children that's better for our world. And we have to be honest about that. 

And it means instilling in them some level of faith and belief. Ingrid was so right. Don't tell me about no separation of church and state. State is the body. Church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies. I can't separate my belief because I'm an elected official. When I walk, I walk with God. When I talk, I talk with God. When I put policies in place, I put them in with a God-like approach to them. That's who I am. And I was that when I was that third-grader, and I'm going to be that when I leave government. I am still a child of God and will always be a child of God and I won't apologize about being a child of God. It is not going to happen.

We need to stand up for that. That is what has happened. We need to be that every day. And watching Pastora Rodriguez, you can just watch her and see God. And we need to ask ourselves, "Do people see God in us? Do they see God in us?" When you walk in the room, do people feel as though I've just been in the presence of Godlike? When you sit down and make decisions, do people feel as though I just been in the midst of a Godlike feeling? Like how are people feeling when they're around each other? Because we are so caught up in the physical presence of individuals that we do not represent or understand the anatomy of your spirit.

You cannot change the anatomy of your spirit because of the perfume or the suit or the tie you are on. If you have a spiritual ugliness, it will show itself from the inside out. And there may be some physically attractive people, but they are emotionally ugly. And you feel their ugliness every day, and mean and nasty. Just surrounded with all of this pain and want to be painful to you. And then get upset because you know how to smile. And living in your blessings. That's what this moment is about. That's why we're doing this.

And I know I say this… So I talked this speech before and I want to just say it again because I just love this analogy, the sponge. Some of you have heard it, but I want everyone to hear it. Rushing out of my door, knocking over a glass of water. I took the sponge and wiped up the countertop. And what happens when you feel the liquid in the sponge? It's saturated. In order to get that saturation out, you have to do what? You got to wring it out. We are saturated with so much despair every day, all day. You can't pick up a paper without someone reminding you of the negative parts of our lives. You're meeting people every day and all they're doing is telling you what's wrong with you. All they're doing is telling you you no longer look this way. You no longer talk this way, how bad you are. You’re listening to the negative sounds everywhere you go.

Today is the day we got to wring it out. You are not going to be able to receive the purifications of God's blessing if you keep your sponge saturated. Some of our souls are so saturated with despair and harm and pain. Today I'm saying to you, "Wring it out, wring it out." You can't receive with these imams, with these pastors, what these rabbis, what they're giving you. If you're so saturated with so much despair. Wring it out. Take a moment to start your day breathing. Start your day meditating. Start your day with self-affirmation. Leave signs on your mirrors and on your windows of how beautiful you are and how God is not finished with you yet and how you are going to overcome. That's how you start the process of wringing out all of that negativity that you receive throughout today.

Before you go to sleep, wring it out. Say a prayer, read a scripture. Listen to a positive quote. Do something kind for yourselves. Then when you wake up in the morning and start your day, start your day wringing it out. Say something kind to you. Tell people, "If you're going to bring me pain, bring it somewhere else." Wring it out. You will never be who you ought to be if you carry around a saturated sponge of despair. You got to wring it out. And then when you meet people in your life and you see they're bringing all of that drama, tell them, "Baby, wring it out, wring it out." Because we have to be reminded of that sometimes. 

And we've done so much together, but we're ready to take to the next level. That's the moment we're here. Here are my three asks of you. One, Breaking Bread, Building Bonds. The 300 people we have in this room, our goal is to have a thousand dinners across the city, 10 people at each dinner. No two people come from the same group, background, ethnicity. And to do something revolutionary, talk to each other. Share your cultures. Why you worship on certain days. Why you eat certain fools. What does Passover mean? What does Diwali mean? Why you wear a turban, a kufi, a yarmulke? Why do you pray several times a day? What is the sounds of the sirens in Williamsburg? But just talking and learning from each other because then the 1,000 turns into 10,000 ambassadors for peace, and then the 10,000 people have another 10 dinners, and it's become a force multiplier. Because the real issue we have in this city is our failure to communicate with each other and know each other.

It is a Shakespearean tragedy sometimes when I'm moving throughout the city and I'm in the midst of some of you and I'm saying, "Wow, people don't experience this." When I walk into a Sikh temple or sit down at a Sukkah or go into a Diwali celebration, do you know how many people in this city have never left the geographical boundaries of the neighborhood they live in and the geographical boundaries of their mindset? They only know people that look like them, talk like them, eat the same food, do the same things. That is a Shakespearean tragedy and anti Christopher Columbus theory, believing if you leave your intellectual thought process, you're going to fall off some type of globe or planet. No, expand the beauty of this diversity. This city is so diverse, has so much to offer and you walk away with a healthy understanding. Let's do these dinners. Let's commit to a dinner. Even if we do one dinner each in this room, that's 3,000 dinners.

The second thing is we want to communicate with you directly. We don't want other people telling our story. We want you to know the wonderful things that we are doing and the resources that your constituencies have available. People are not even aware of what we've done with childcare. Earned Income Tax Credit. Your constituencies that are struggling right now can get hundreds of dollars back because of the success we've had in Earned Income Tax Credits. We want you to be part of that communication to give them the help you need. You have people among your group who are eligible for SNAP and WIC and seniors who are eligible for SCRIE to keep their rents frozen so they don't have to lose their homes that they're in, but you're not getting that information.

So we put in place a system where we want to communicate with you directly. We want you to sign up for that because the bearer of bad news is not looking to bring good news. And there are too many people who are professionals at bringing bad news. Because there's something exciting about bringing bad news to people. Just as an emotion of happiness is an emotion, an emotion of despair is also an emotion, and there's a lot of people that enjoy the emotion of despair. We need to now surround ourselves with those who enjoy the emotion of happiness. Sign up and be a part of spreading the good news.

Affordable housing summit, we were successful. Let's keep doing that. I want my faith-based leaders to be part of the housing that we are building. Mental health. What is the best way to deal with the mental health crisis we have than connecting people with the faith-based institutions in our city? Yes, we have professional operations that's doing this and they have a role to play. But to stabilize it, we must have communities. That is the key to identifying when someone is going through a crisis to give them the assistance they need when they're part of a community. Do you know close to 50 percent of the people on Rikers Island are dealing with mental health illness? They should not be incarcerated. We need to find a better pathway to deal with the mental health crisis in our city.

When you put it all together, put us on the pathway. And I'm excited about the tomorrows and I see the excitement every day when I see you and the partnership that we've developed as Ingrid stated, from many years ago. I'm here because of the faith based institution. You do not take this journey on your own. I strongly believe in all my heart, God said, "I'm going to take the most broken person and I'm going to elevate him to the place of being the mayor of the most powerful city on the globe." He could have made me the mayor of Topeka, Kansas. He could have made me the mayor of some small town or village somewhere. He stated that, "I'm going to take this broken child, this individual who is the epitome of the mistakes a human being can make in a lifetime, and I'm going to elevate him to the most important city in the country."

There's a lesson in that. Far too often we miss the lesson when God sends it to us. So when you can go from being where I was to where I am, we need to use it as an example for all of our children. If they were incarcerated, tell them your mayor was incarcerated. If they have a learning disability, tell them your mayor has your learning disability. If they are living in homeless shelters, we moved from household to household until mom was able to stabilize, and even then it wasn't stable. Your mayor lived in that place. If it's domestic violence, he lived in a domestic violence situation. Let me be the living example that God has put in front of us to understand just because you're dyslexic, arrested, rejected, you still could be elected and be the mayor of the City of New York.

That's only God. That's not man. That's only God. And so today we proclaim that this city, New York City, is a place where the mayor of New York is a servant of God. Thank you. Continue to pray for us.


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