The Inaugural Address of Mayor Lovely A. Warren
67th Mayor of Rochester, New York
Delivered January 4, 2014
Thank you all. I am truly and deeply honored that you are all here to share this very special day with me.
On March 22, 2013 I stood a few miles from here and said that together we had the power to change history. And Rochester, you did it, we did it -- you made history by not only electing your first female mayor but by electing a mayor who understands what it is like to go to bed every night and wake up every morning thinking about our future and how we can make it as bright as it can be.
I would like to dedicate this day and this speech to my grandfather, Cecil McClary – who I wish with all my heart was here with us today. Wishing that he was physically here to watch me take my oath, to hold the bible and smile that big smile and tell me well done.
You know, traditionally swearing in ceremonies and inaugural speeches are filled with soaring language, lofty ideas and perhaps – yes - a few worn out expressions. But I hope to communicate to you in quite a different way today.
Because of the age of technology in which we live…our words can be recorded and reviewed forever by whoever wants to look back at the - and one of those people may be my own child, my daughter Taylor. So today, I want to make a some promises to her and the children of Rochester, that are also my promises to you.
My dear, Taylor - you are 3 years old - your world is small and secure and full of wonder. Your future will depend on many of the people in this room today and our ability to work together to make a better city for you to grow up in.
When I was your age Kodak employed 50,000 people in Rochester . Tens of thousands more moms and dads and aunties and uncles worked at Xerox and Bausch and Lomb and other companies too. There were jobs that promised a brighter future for many people. Many people including many people in your family that moved here looking for a better life, for good schools and opportunities that were not afforded to them where they came from. But over time that all changed.
As you grow up, you will discover that change can be hard. And far too often when people do not like the changes that are happening around them they tend to block them out. They ignore what may be right in front of them because it hurts to think about the alternative. Far too often they try to do things the way they have always done them in the hope that by doing so things will go back to the way they used to be. But that never seems to happen. Instead, the things they don’t want to acknowledge just get worse.
Change is hard. But I believe that we can’t turn a blind eye to change. I believe we can make things better. And my eyes are wide open to the possibilities.
Today I am being allowed to begin a great journey with a lot of people by my side. I am so proud! I promise you that I will try very hard to do a good job. Because your future and the future of every child who lives in this city will depend on what we all do, every single day, for many days to come.
Working to fix our schools and offering parents more good choices is a priority. And, I will fight very hard to do that because you deserve it and so do all of our children! I know this isn’t going to be easy, but, I am going to fight for changes and outcomes with the fierceness of a mother defending her child. Becaus that is what I am doing - defending you and all our children.
The downtown I grew up in is very different from the downtown of today. It was fun and vibrant. Actually, it was great. I want you
to know how great a lively downtown can be.
The downtown I want you to grow up in will be one of vitality, art, entertainment, nightlife - and growth. It will have more people living and working there because there will be reasons to live and work here. It will be safe and a place you want to be in and feel secure in.Because I do not want you to grow up here then leave for somewhere else. I want you to stay here and find a good job here and raise your family here because this is a good place. A place we love. A city that is worth fighting for.
I want you to raise my grandchildren here and have them live in safe caring and nurturing neighborhoods. And, doing that means we have to accomplish a lot in a short time. But I have a strong group of people who share my desire to have this city be everything to you as it has been to me and we are ready to get started.
So, today - in front of all these people and being recorded for you to watch as you grow - let me promise you that this is a moment in time when things began to change - a moment in time when our governmental goals became goals that take on a deeply personal meaning to of all our families.
So this is not just my promise to you, Taylor, it is my promise to all of Rochester’s children.
We will fix our schools because you and every child like you needs and deserves that.
We will make our neighborhoods safe and a source of pride.
We will work hard to put people back to work, lessen the disparities and bridge the vast divides that separate us.
We will rebuild our downtown and make you proud to be a Rochesterian.
We will bring people together to accomplish all this.
Promises, promises, promises….
Promises are all well and good - but only if they lead in one direction: towards progress.
It is my strongly held belief that we can turn promises into progress. And that brings me back to where I started – with my Grandad - because his life story is at the core of what motivates me.
Instead of being allowed to go to school, he was required to work in the field at the tender age of 7. An education was not an option for him. His father never claimed him, yet in spite of never knowing a father’s love, he and my grandmother raised eight children, a host of nieces and nephews and 24 grandchildren with an abundance of joy and love. My Grandad showed me that that as parents and as a community, we must do right by our children.
We must do everything in our power to assure that they receive a quality education and have safe places to play.
We must help their moms and dads get jobs so they can live good lives - send their children to college or into the workforce and welcome them back home to a city that values them for the treasures that they are.
My Grandad never learned to read but was able to own his own business, work hard every day, give to the church and provide for his family.
I often say that Rochester is strong and our people are resilient – and when I say this, I have people like my Grandad and so many others like him in mind. Rochester is filled with people – every day folks that you pass on the street – who overcame adversity and personal challenges to make their little corner of the world, their little corner of the city we call home, a better place. We can learn so much from them.
And so I say to you - and to Taylor - and to all the children, no matter where you start you can finish strong. We can believe in ourselves. We can do better, and we will. I – we - will work hard every single day to make this city as great as it can be.
In conclusion, I want to share this quote from George Bernard Shaw which is my promise to all of you, a promise that I intend to keep.
“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is a privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die,
for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no 'brief candle' to me. It is a sort of
splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as
brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.”
Thank you and God Bless.