Full text: Mayor Vincent C. Gray's inauguration speech

Sunday, January 2, 2011; 8:41 AM

The following is the full text, as prepared for delivery, of new D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray's inauguration speech on Jan. 2, 2010.

Good morning. Thank you Bruce for such a nice introduction.

Thank you Judge Washington for administering the oath of office.

To the Council of the District of Columbia, congratulations to the members who have been reelected, and to my colleague and friend Kwame Brown who now assumes the role of chairman of the council.

To the leaders from other areas who have come today.

To the many diplomats who have taken the time to be here.

To my family, especially my children.

And to my fellow residents of the District of Columbia:

I stand before you today humbled by the oath that I have taken, the trust that you have placed in me, and the challenges and opportunities that we face ahead.

I stand here proud to be a native Washingtonian.

Proud to be a product of our city's public schools.

Proud to be a graduate of George Washington University. Proud to have been the first African American in a fraternity at George Washington. And proud to have been joined today, all these years later, by more than 20 of the brothers of Tau Epsilon Phi, all of us having been bonded by this profound human experience.

I also stand here proud to have been able to serve people with disabilities and the children, youth and families of this city.

Proud to have enjoyed the support of the people of Ward 7 as their councilmember for two years and then people all across the city as I was elected to be chairman of the council for the past four years.

And proud just a few weeks ago to have been elected mayor of the greatest city in the world. Thank you people of D.C.!

On behalf of the people of our city, I thank Mayor Adrian Fenty for his service to the District -- and for his future public service in the years ahead.

Since the inception of home rule, five people before me have raised their hand and taken this sacred oath. Each has left a unique mark on the office. They served in times of prosperity as our city flourished. And they served in times of challenge and hardship. But all have benefitted mightily from the strength and optimism of the people of the District of Columbia.

We live in one of the most unique and recognizable cities on earth. Across the world, people hear "Washington, D.C.," and they conjure images of majesty and history. They think of the home of our president, the seat of our national government, a command center in the global struggle for freedom and democracy.

While we take pride in these images and honor the special relationship we share with the federal government, to us -- the people of the District of Columbia -- this city means something quite different.

To us, it is home.

It's where we work ... raise our families ... build communities ... practice our faith ... teach our children ... and live our lives.

And while there are some who choose to focus on the racial or economic differences in the city, make no mistake -- there is far more that brings us together than there is that drives us apart.

Whether we live in northwest, northeast, southeast or southwest...

Whether we are black, white, yellow or brown...

Whether we get around by car, bus, train, foot or bike...

This is one city -- our city.

Make no mistake, we have our share of challenges that are unique to our city.

In many ways, Washington is the greatest symbol of our nation's democracy. Yet, we as Washingtonians continue to be the only people in our nation that remain shut out of that democracy.

In our system of government, presidents change. And control of Congress swings like a pendulum.

But there is at least one constant. We, the residents of this city, remain here.

That is why we cannot rest until we achieve true self-determination and become our nation's 51st state.

While we must remain diligent in that quest, we also appreciate the special -- and beneficial -- relationship we share with the federal government.

That is why my administration is so looking forward to working closely with the White House and the federal agencies to achieve progress for our city. Whether it's creating jobs, improving education, or strengthening our government, President Obama and my administration share many of the same goals and we plan to work closely to achieve them.

I truly appreciated the opportunity to discuss our priorities with President Obama at our lunch at the White House on December 1. And I am encouraged by the assurance of regular, meaningful engagement I have received from the president's cabinet and his staff. Quite simply, I know we can accomplish great things to make our city the best nation's capital in the world.

But while our complicated relationship with the federal government makes us unique, in many respects, our city is no different from so many other cities and states.

Our families want the same things as families in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or Miami -- we want a fair shot at achieving the American dream, and creating a better future for our children.

Our people are just as hard-working, just as resilient, just as hopeful and just as optimistic as anywhere else.

Our city has the world-class resources and a dedicated workforce to make us economically competitive with any city in the world.

And we share many of the same challenges as other cities -- an educational achievement gap that is simply unacceptable ... a record unemployment rate that is ravaging communities across the city, especially east of the river ... too many families that feel unsafe in their own neighborhoods ... and a global economic crisis that has created a city budget crisis, leaving us to make some very painful choices in the weeks and months ahead.

These are serious and difficult challenges that affect each one of us, regardless of where we live in the city. And they will not be solved overnight. Dealing with them will require patience and sacrifice from every one of us.

But there is no question in my mind that our challenges can and will be met -- if we all come together to make that happen.

If we come together as one city, we will bring a collaborative and holistic approach to education reform -- an approach that involves parents and teachers in the process, but uncompromisingly puts children first. An approach borne in the recognition that education is the great equalizer and the great liberator for our children, and is the foundation of our city's future economic revival.

If we come together as one city, we will find ways to put more District residents back to work and create an environment to help our small business owners thrive and succeed.

If we come together as one city, and work hand in hand with our hard-working public safety officers, we will create neighborhoods in which every family feels safe because they are safe.

If we come together as one city, we will bring increased transparency to our budget process, ensure that taxpayer dollars are treated with respect, and hold our elected leaders -- every single one of us -- accountable for our actions.

And if we come together as one city, yes we will one day realize the same right to self-determination that every other American enjoys.

I know that we are capable of all this, because I have seen us rise to the occasion before. As a lifelong resident of our city, I have seen the people of the District celebrate in good times, and show unshakable resilience when times were tough.

And what I've learned is that when the diverse people of the District, from all of our wonderfully diverse neighborhoods, come together as one city, and take ownership of it as our city -- there is nothing we can't accomplish.

It is that most fundamentally American characteristic, in this most fundamentally American city, that we celebrate today, and that will carry and guide us as we move forward ... move forward together.

And so today, as a new mayor takes office...

As a new administration begins to take shape with a team that is reflective of the entire city...

As a new council chair takes the gavel...

As a dedicated group of public servants take their seats on the council...

As our fearless and tireless warrior on Capitol Hill prepares to take our cause before new congressional leadership...

We stand ready to tackle the challenges before us -- both those that are known, and those that have yet to reveal themselves.

But we also know that we cannot do this alone. No mayor and no council can.

These challenges cannot all be solved by a handful of talented people in the halls of the Wilson Building.

They have to be tackled in every part of the city -- quadrant-by-quadrant, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, street-by-street and home-by-home.

The people of the District -- all of the people -- must be a part of these efforts.

Now is not the time for complacency, nor the time to sit on the sidelines.

Now is the time to spring to collective action as one city in order to build our city.

When I was a child growing up in a one-bedroom apartment on 6th Street NE, I watched my mother dutifully go out and sweep the sidewalks in front and the alleys in back. One day I asked her, "why do you do that mom? Those streets and sidewalks belong to the city."

And, in so many words, my mom said, those streets and sidewalks belong to us and we have to do our part to keep them clean because this is our neighborhood and our city.

Just as President Kennedy urged all Americans to ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country ... now is the time for all District residents to make the sacrifices needed to weather the storm we face. And to ask not what your city can do for you but what you can do for your city.

Just as President Clinton called on us to "take more responsibility, not only for ourselves and our families but for our communities and our country," ... now is the time for all of us to be moved by a spirit of service at the community and neighborhood level, and to help build our city.

Just as President Obama urged all of us to usher in "a new era of responsibility," and reminded us that "greatness is never given -- it is earned" ... now is the time for each and every one of us to renew our commitment to ensuring that we live in the world-class city -- and state -- we know this can be.

Today, we begin a new chapter in the history of our city ... one defined by a sense of common purpose, shared sacrifice, and communities united.

A chapter written not by a single author, but with the pens of 600,000 residents from all eight wards and all walks of life, committed to a vision of one city -- our city.

From the West End to the East End this is one city -- our city.

From Dupont Circle to Randle Circle, this is one city -- our city.

From Mclean Gardens to Naylor Gardens and Chinatown to Tenleytown, this is one city -- our city.

From Friendship Heights to Columbia Heights to Lincoln Heights to Congress Heights, this is one city -- our city.

From Fort Lincoln to Lincoln Park, this is one city -- our city.

From Forest Hills to Hillcrest and Fairfax Village to Colonial Village, this is one city -- our city.

As I stand here looking out on this magnificent crowd today, seeing the many diverse faces of the District, I am filled with pride. But what I am most proud of is not the office I am entering.

It is a much deeper pride in being a resident of the District of Columbia and raising my family in the District of Columbia. It is a pride in the people of the District of Columbia, pride in knowing that I can reach out to you as friends, neighbors, and part of a collective community. It is a pride that this is our city.

It is a pride that says we value the collective dignity. That we won't settle for even one child being undereducated. That we won't accept people being out of work. That we won't tolerate crime. And that we won't stand for disenfranchisement because we aspire to be the best democracy in the world.

President Abraham Lincoln once said "allow all the governed an equal voice in the government and that, and only that, is self-government."

My friends, it is then, and only then, that we can proclaim this nation's promise of justice for all finally has arrived in the District of Columbia.

Thank you.

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