Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks at New Hope Christian Fellowship

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Mayor Bill de Blasio: First, I want to give honor to God, without Him this day would not be possible.

Bishop had it right. I did come to New Hope when I aspired to be your mayor. And I came to New Hope as soon as I was elected your mayor. And I found hope in New Hope. I found purpose in New Hope. I found possibility in New Hope because something special happens here –

Something special. And I’ve always felt this about this church and this congregation, a special spirit, a special sense of intention that we can take spiritual teachings and put them into action in our community. And that famous idea from scripture that should animate our lives, faith without works is dead. Here is a place where the works happen, goodness happens. The connection between spirituality and the community happens. That is because of a great man and Bishop Orlando Findlayter is not just a great man in New York City, his presence is felt across the state, his presence is felt across this nation because he’s that kind of leader.

He mentioned to you being called to duty, called to action because of the tragedy of a shooting.  What he has done, and his colleagues in the God Squad, has saved lives. They have saved lives –

More than we will ever know. What he has done advocating for immigrants, to make sure that this nation of immigrants actually treats immigrants with respect – that work continues. He has been one of the national leaders changing what we need to change in this country. I’ll tell you something, when I said at the beginning, we needed to reach our children in a new way, needed to reach them earlier, teach them earlier. I had no stronger supporter, no stronger organizer for the changes we needed in this city than Bishop Orlando Findlayter. Let’s thank him for all he does.

Yeah. Give him a standing ovation. He deserves it.

We are graced with some wonderful dignitaries. I want to mention my colleague in government who has been a great partner, so many matters that matter in this community, and her devotion to this community, devotion to Brooklyn has been extraordinary. She’s also been a leader in the fight to make sure that folks with challenges with mental health get the help they need. She’s been a citywide leader making a difference. Thank you, Council Member Farah Louis.

And [inaudible] the next generation of city leaders, in a neighboring district, the fact that we have a dynamic new leader. And we met, in fact, on a playground during Summer Rising, beginning of our amazing Summer Rising initiative, 200,000 kids this summer got to go to, not just school, summer school the way we all knew it where it was sort of a punishment. They got to go to something fun and engaging with culture and recreation and academic support. 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM throughout the summer for free for every single child. And I met Rita Joseph there, and she, because of her long work, working with kids, understanding the needs of our children, our communities, she’s going to be a great Council member. Congratulations to you.

Now, New Hope – well, what says New Hope more than a new home, right? Congratulations for that. And congratulations that we are back in person. That’s going to make a difference. You know, I don’t want to sound anti-technology, but I’ve kind of had it with the Zooms. Okay. And anyone in this room has had it with Zooms, raise your hand. We’ve been done, Zoom. Okay. Enough Zooms. We like being together. Fellowship is spiritual, but fellowship also is empowered by our presence, it’s being near each other, understanding each other, feeling each other’s joys and sorrows and being there for each other. That’s what happens here. This church, as I said, I’ve always known it to be a very, very special place, and through every adversity – and our Bishop suffered adversity, the loss of his first lady. And everyone stood by him and believed in him. He showed tremendous [inaudible]. And our whole congregation, our community, our borough, our city, our nation, we’ve all been through adversity this last year-and-a-half. But he still showed [inaudible]. He was always there. And that’s why this is a very special place. People stick by each other.

Now, listen, this is what we have to do in the future, too. We will come out of COVID. I keep reminding people, this is not a permanent condition. This is an affliction. It came out of nowhere, but we can send it away if we keep doing what we’re capable of. We can put it in the past. But then what happens? Was the world before the pandemic so perfect? No, no. And we’ve got to regain the momentum to make changes in our lives and our society. I get worried when some people who are a little too comfortable with the status quo, just want us to get over the pandemic and then just lock everything in the way it was. That’s not acceptable to me. You’ve got a lot more change to make. And if you wonder, can it happen? Let me tell you a simple story that we all experienced.

You know, when I came here in 2013, I was hounded out by so many in the race for mayor. There are plenty of doubting Thomases that I [inaudible]. Luckily, I knew Bishop Findlayter. And he and so many other good people said, no, believe, keep going, keep going because the things you want to do will change lives. I remember an editorial, I believe it was in the New York Times, one day that said Pre-K for All was a noble idea but, of course, it could never happen, why waste your vote on something that could never happen? Well, in fact, people in this community, people in Brooklyn, the people of New York City saw it differently. We said every single child deserves the same opportunity. That radical, but absolutely moral notion, every child is precious. If they’re precious, give them opportunity, support them, love them, uplift them.

Don’t just talk about it, be about it.

But I’m going to take you one farther. Invest, because you know what, children are very perceptive. If you withhold investment, they can feel it. If you give them a second-class education or no education, they can tell. But if you said, we want you to get the very best education from the very beginning, as much as any child blessed to go to the most elite school, you deserve just as good, children can feel that immediately. They can feel when you believe they’re precious, but you act like they’re precious. So, we said we would provide pre-K, high-quality, full-day pre-K for every single child in this city, no matter how many doubting Thomases. We went and did it because so many people believed, so many people said, yes, we have to do this. Then, my friends, I think I’m following in Bishop’s footsteps here – instead of saying, well, that’s enough, let’s rest on our laurels, I said, let’s go farther, let’s reach out three-year-olds. Today in New York City, three-year-olds are getting high-quality, full-day early childhood education for free.

If we do a little bit more in the next year or two, it will become a universal right. Which means in the course of a decade, we will have added two [inaudible] grades to our public schools for every child [inaudible]. That’s what we’ve done together. I have – look, I’ve been honored to be your vessel, but I want to be clear. The only way someone like me is able to do this is because you had faith, because you said it had to happen. And I remind you, whatever our challenge never let people tell us what we can’t do. There’s a lot of voices that spend a lot of time telling us what we can’t do, right. Have you ever felt that? Raise your hand if you’ve been told what you can’t do. But my message to everyone is never let anyone talk you out of your own power, in your own life, in your own career, but also as members of the community.

We said we did not need to police our streets the way it was done in the past. We all saw the scourge of stop-and-frisk. We saw our young people disrespected, treated like criminals, even when they were perfectly law-abiding. We said we could get rid of that and be safe. And if you go back to 2013 and read the editorials and the statements from the officials of that time, and the doom saying, you would have thought the city would fall apart the minute we got rid of stop-and-frisk. In fact, the opposite happened. We got safer when we started showing respect to our young people and our families and our communities. And we will get safe again. We’ve been through a tough, tough patch because of COVID. The whole country knows it, not only what it’s done for our health but what it’s done [inaudible] in terms of crime. But we will overcome it like we’ve overcome it before, but the only way to do it, is with neighborhood policing, it is with the full commitment to bringing neighborhoods and police together. You can’t do it with [inaudible] separation. You can’t do it with folks coming in from outside and protecting without engaging the community. It doesn’t work. And no one understands that more than Bishop. And the work of the God Squad has been so profound because that bond is [inaudible]. So, we proved that safety and fairness can walk hand-in-hand [inaudible].

I’m going to give you one more example. My wife, Chirlane, had the audacity to talk about something that unfortunately in every culture, in every society is somehow ignored and stigmatized, mental health. Mental health, the issue of mental health, the challenges of mental health, they are part of the human condition, they affect every single one of us. Again, thank you, Council Member, for leading the way on these issues, for working so closely with the First Lady. This is part of who we are. I’ll make it simple, has anyone ever at any moment in your life, you ever felt kind of down, you ever felt kind of blue, what we could now say, maybe a little depressed? Anyone ever felt that? Anyone ever had someone in their family feel that? Every one of us has experienced a mental health challenge one way or another or has had a family member dealing with a challenge. And if it’s every one of us and it is a universal part of the human condition, why don’t we stand up together and say, this is something we will address, bring it out in the open and get people to help they need. We said, we would end the stigma. We would open the conversation and open the doors for help. We would bring mental health services to the people, especially our children.

Our children, in this last year-and-a-half – again, they are perceptive. They see a lot more sometimes than we give them credit for. They’ve been through a lot. Everyone has been through a lot but imagine if in the earliest years of your life and your development, you went through a global pandemic. We’ve all been through a lot, but that’s profound [inaudible]. So, we said, when our kids came back to school, we would have help for them. We’ve hired hundreds and hundreds of social workers. And we guaranteed that every child got a mental health screening and if they needed some additional help we would talk to their parents and we would get that [inaudible] the help they needed. Because every child deserves to be heard and helped through this extraordinary moment in history. Everything I’ve described, early childhood education, neighborhood policing, Mental Health for All, it’s all things that didn’t exist until you made it possible by saying the city had to change.  And so, I’ll conclude with a simple point, never give up. That quest for change, for justice, and that belief that you deserve something better, never give up, never give up. Because when you raise the demand, more happens. When you say to your leaders, we instruct you to help us to a better life, it actually can be achieved. But I’ll guarantee you one thing, if you don’t demand it, you’ll never see. I want to say that again. If you don’t demand what you deserve, you will never see it. And I want to thank everyone here because this is a place of faith. This is a place where people uplift each other and keep each other going and keep believing in the possibilities [inaudible].

The final statement I want to say is, some months back when we were struggling with the worst of the worst, I was talking with a member of the clergy who was very sad about the state of affairs of the city. And he said to me, very honestly, he came right out and said, ‘I’m so worried about [inaudible].’ He said, do you think New York City will ever regain its past glory? A very heartfelt question. It was a tough time. And I wanted to be respectful. But I also realized how much he was feeling the weight of just those few months we went through, particularly in the beginning. I said, Pastor, I respect you greatly, and I respect your question. But I don’t think the question is, will New York City regain its past glory. Because as good as the city is, as glorious as it is in so many ways, there are still too many things that are not there. There are still too many people left out. There’s too many immigrants not getting the respect they deserve. There are still too many families working two or three jobs, but not getting the pay they need. There’s still too many things wrong for me to say, I just want to regain that past glory. I said, no, Pastor, we need to look ahead, we need to build something new, we need to build something better. The better question is, when will we reach our greater glory? And let’s do that together. That is our mission. Thank you, and God bless you all.

 

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