November 21, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, Bethel.
Audience: Good morning.
Mayor: First, I want to give honor to God. Without Him, this day would not be possible.
I start with a confession, Bishop. I love this place. I love this place. Every time I’ve come back, I feel joy. I feel joy, because this is an amazing congregation filled with faith, but also filled with purpose. And so much of that comes from your leader who has had a vision for the role this congregation could play in this community and he has made it come to life. We’ve talked about, in particular, his deep, deep feeling for the youth of our community, for giving them a better path. And this church has been central to that, including getting our young people vaccinated, and that has made all the difference.
So, everybody, please join me in a profound thank you to Bishop Brown for all he has done.
There’s a lot of love for you. Now, I want to tell you about a lesson I learned, and it’s something we now are very careful about at Gracie Mansion. My wife, Chirlane McCray, our First Lady, when she heard a traditional phrase, she told me never used that phrase again. The old phrase was, behind every great man is a great woman. We don’t say that anymore. We don’t say that anymore. So, as I acknowledge Pastor Lorna Brown – I say, beside every great man is a great woman. Thank you, First Lady.
I want to thank you for giving me a chance to be with you. I’m going to be brief, but I want to start from my heart on behalf of my family. On behalf of Chirlane, and Chiara, and Dante, I want to thank you for a journey together over these last eight years. And we know we would not have been able to do any good without you. We know we would not have had the privilege of serving without you. We also know we could not have achieved change without you, because the people demanded change. The people gave us the wind beneath our wings to make the change. And I’m going to give you three examples very quickly, because it shows you why it matters when the people are engaged, and involved, and what difference we can make in this world.
The first I want to talk about is, to me, a passion, and that is reaching our youngest children and giving them a positive start. I want you to know when I proposed in 2013, that every child in New York City could have pre-K for free, there were doubting Thomases. There were naysayers. They said, what a lovely idea, but it’ll never happen. We had to go to Albany and get help. They said, that’ll never happen. Oh, it’s too difficult. It’s too many kids. But I knew the people wanted it, and the people believed. I knew it would make an impact on every family with a young child. And so, they said it could not be done. But, today, in New York City, every child gets full-day, high-quality pre-K for free.
And then, because of the power, the support that you gave to us, we said, let’s go to the next step and do the same exact thing. And now, we’re about to have Universal 3-K – three-year-olds, having that same opportunity for free all over this city.
The second example I want to give you – my wife, Chirlane, reflecting upon the challenges we had had in our own family, and what she heard everywhere she went in this city about the way that people ended up in a tough situation. Some people ended up homeless. Some kids ended up dropping out of school. Some people ended up incarcerated. But the common link in so many cases was a mental health challenge – a mental health challenge. And, as Chirlane listened, and thought, and created a vision, she kept hearing this difficulty that people had even talking about the experience they had had or their loved one had had. Now, if anyone in this room had a broken leg, or had asthma, you wouldn’t feel it was somehow a difficult subject. You wouldn’t feel any lesser, because you had a broken leg. But we all received from our society, somehow, a stigma related to mental health, even though it is a profoundly human and universal reality. There are mental health challenges of all kinds. Every family is affected.
Chirlane said, we can break that stigma. If we do break that stigma, imagine the thousands – the hundreds of thousands of people could get the help they need. And so, she created a beautiful vision called Thrive. And it meant that everyone who had a mental health challenge, or even a loved one who did, you could turn someplace. You could get help. You could know that you would not be judged. You would be loved and supported. That was the vision and it’s coming true right now in New York City. And again, people said, how are you going to be able to reach people across the spectrum with mental health services? But we proved it could happen. And I’m going to remind everyone here, if anyone in your life is dealing with a challenge, there’s one place to call. It’s available 24-hours a day. It is free. It is in many languages. 888-NYC-WELL. I want you to say that with me, please – 888-NYC-WELL. Remember it. Spread it. Because, now, you can get that help, a trained counselor there for you anytime. That is something we had to do for our people, but it wouldn’t have happened without you.
And I’m going to give you the third example. The third example goes to what we have been struggling with for centuries and we felt so sharply in the last couple of years, which is there has to be a different way to interpret public safety. There has to be a different way to approach policing. There has to be a different way to understand what allows a community to be whole. We have increasingly recognized and acted on the notion that some of the very best ways to create safety come from the community – from the community. Community-based solutions – the Cure Violence Movement, the Crisis Management System. We are supporting community organizations to stop violence before it ever happens, to stop shootings, to stop beefs, to get young people to posit alternatives. Bishop and I were talking about this – give a young person a positive place to be and it makes all the difference in the world. It is not just about someone in uniform. Yes, of course, there’s a role for the right kind of respectful non-discriminatory policing. We fight for that every day, but that is not the only definition of safety. Children, being loved and supported creates safety. Communities, being respected creates safety. Community organizations, leading the way is the community-based solution. We are building that here in New York City, and President Biden has now taken that as an inspiration. And the vision he’s put forward for this whole country is based so much on what’s been achieved here in neighborhoods all over the city. So, these changes are happening right now and you made it possible. You made it possible.
But I want to offer one last thing before I leave you. And I want to say this with hope, because, yes, it’s been a very difficult season, as Bishop said. But I hope that you feel what I do, which is after what we went through together, after the love, and compassion people showed for each other, after the strength and resiliency this city exhibited, it’s actually a time of hope. It’s actually a time of hope. So, let me offer one vision for our future, and it gets back to our young people. Here’s what I want to create in this city, in this whole state, and I want to see it happen one day in this whole nation. Every family should have a guarantee. Every family should know that your child can be in a safe, positive place not just until the school day ends at 2:30 p.m. or 3 p.m., but until the end of the afternoon, the end of the workday. It should be a guarantee, every child can stay in school until 6 p.m. in a safe, positive environment, getting the support –…