Back to Mayor’s Office main page — Anthony Williams’s first inaugural address
Government and People
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact:
THURSDAY, JANUARY 2, 2003 202-727-6846
Mayor Anthony A. Williams Inaugurated for Second Term
Theme of Inaugural Address is One City, One Future
(Washington, DC) At a ceremony at the Warner Theatre, Mayor Anthony A. Williams was sworn in today for his second term as Mayor of the District of Columbia. The oath of office was administered by the Honorable Rufus G. King III, Chief Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
His inaugural address as prepared for delivery follows.
First, Chief Judge King, Chairman Cropp, Council members, Secretary Martinez, the Diplomatic community, ANC Commissioners, distinguished guests, citizens of the District of Columbia, friends and family. I am honored by your presence here today.
Let me thank our Youth Mayor, Michael Clark, for his kind words of introduction. It would not surprise me to be here one day to see Michael take an oath to serve the citizens of our city. In his face, and in the faces of the students here with us from Eastern and Ballou, I see our next leaders - and that gives me great hope for our future.
Thank you for singing, Mom. With your indomitable spirit, you encourage all of us to "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing." Diane and Asantewa, thank you for your love, patience and unending support. I draw great strength from both of you.
Rev. Dr. Alvin Jackson, thank you for reminding us that it is God's will we carry out here. As the Bible says, "whosoever of you will be the chief shall be the servant of all." As the Mayor of this great city, I stand here today not only as your chief, but as your servant. A servant of all.
Mayors Washington, Barry and Kelly, I am grateful that you have joined us today. Few mayors are blessed to have ALL the former Mayors as advisors - together you have guided the District through difficult times in our struggle for full self-government. I'm deeply grateful for your counsel, your wisdom and your unending love for the people of our great city.
And I am honored to join with our warrior on the Hill, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, to carry on the fight for full voting rights, full self-determination for our people.
I'd like to thank John Koskinen and my Cabinet for all you do to make this government work for all of us. I hope you are ready, because I'm "raising the bar." The citizens have great expectations of you, and so do I.
As I stood before you four years ago, I was filled with ideas and ideals, eager to get started, and yes, perhaps a bit green in foreseeing all the challenges awaiting us. However, over the past four years, we began confronting those challenges, together as a community. I promised to make the government work for all - to go from "I don't know" to "I'll find out." We put our "bodies and souls in motion" for change. We came together, we worked together and we achieved together. More than 11,500 children now have a safe place to go after school in their neighborhood because 90 community organizations opened their doors. More than 10,000 citizens participated in our Citizen Summits and our Neighborhood Action initiative. We resurfaced more than 2,000 blocks in every corner of the District, answered more than 750,000 telephone calls a year, welcomed new retailers to long neglected neighborhoods, and balanced our budget every year -- even at a time when other cities and states have gone into staggering deficits. And on September 11-- and during the dark months that followed -- we showed the world what it means to be the capital of our nation.
I stand here today, a wiser man, learning as much from the mistakes of the past four years as from our successes. I bring an awareness of our fragile economy - both here and nationally; a deeper understanding of the needs and challenges we must meet, a personal commitment to the highest standards of excellence and ethics; and an even greater respect for the voice of the people.
Nothing is more crucial in a democracy than the dialogue that occurs among citizens, the private sector, civic organizations, faith communities, the media and government. In this dialogue, we articulate our hopes and dreams, our worries and aspirations as a people. These past four years, I have been privileged to participate in this dialogue - through two campaigns, during our summits, testifying before Council and Congress, in churches, at senior centers, schools, libraries and on the streets of every one of our neighborhoods. Sometimes the voices are raised in anger, sometimes muted by grief. But always, always heard. It is the voices of the people who live in our city, attend our schools, volunteer in our churches, and watch over our neighborhoods that have had the most profound effect on me. These are the people who guide me -- inspire me. People like Sabrina Snell at School Without Walls who is reaching for the stars as she pursues her dream of becoming an astronomer. People like Brenda Hall in Washington Highlands, who is about to start her career after getting the job training she needed to enter the job market. And people like Buddy Moore in Parkview who is proving that citizens can play a critical role in stopping crime before it starts.
I admire their courage and I respect the insight they provide on the work ahead. From my conversations with citizens like these, and with many of you, three themes stand out, three priorities that must guide us over the next four years: Education, opportunity, and public safety.
The first theme I've heard again and again is that we must educate our children; they are our pride, our hope, and our future.
The pride of our city is Eladdieyo Robinson, a senior at Anacostia High School who will be the first in his family to attend college when he begins at Morehouse this fall. The hope of our city is Ayanna Reed, a seventh-grader at Bertie Backus Middle School, whose love of singing is at the heart of her commitment to excellence. And the future of the city is Harry Stein at Wilson, who scored a perfect 1600 on the SATs.
We care about these children and their future. They are why I am going to keep fighting to fix our schools and make sure all our children have all they need to reach their full potential -- textbooks, technology and teachers.
We will increase our efforts to help attract and retain excellent teachers by offering competitive salaries and incentives such as our homeownership assistance. We will do all we can to make sure they have the tools they need to teach our children and we will work closely with the Board of Education the Public Charter School Board to establish clear expectations of accountability for teachers and administrators.
And there is something else we must do -- we must strengthen the connection between neighborhoods and schools. Our schools should be beacons of hope, providing families access to a range of services -- from child care to health care, from mentoring programs to job training. My vision is a simple one, our schools must send a clear and powerful message to children: we care about you and we will not let you fail.
As Mayor, I have a moral obligation to all our children, wherever they attend school, an obligation that I hold sacred. I will serve as an advocate for the parents and grandparents of this city, joining them in all they do to teach our children. Because it will take all of us together to make sure that every child - every child – starts school ready to learn, enters third grade proficient in reading and begins 7th grade able to excel in math. This commitment to educating our kids is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Our future demands no less.
The second theme that emerged from the people so powerfully is that we must expand opportunity for all. This is particularly important as we take a good hard look at the national economy. For the past two years, cities, counties and states across the nation have been hit hard by our stagnant economy. Let me be candid, we are facing tough fiscal times, and it may get worse before it gets better. That is why now more than ever we need to make sure that every resident has the tools they need to participate fully in our economy.
It is not acceptable for one in five of our residents to live in poverty. It is not our destiny to be a city of rich and poor. That is why I will dedicate much of my energy and resources over the next four years to opening doors of opportunity for everyone in this city. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., envisioned the day when we would all realize the American dream, "A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed." To live Dr. King's dream here in the District, we must provide clear pathways of opportunity in jobs, health care and housing.
Let us start by helping to connect District residents with jobs -- good jobs that enable a man or woman to climb the ladder of success, to move up and out of poverty. There are good jobs available in our city - in technology, the building trades, even with the Federal government -- and more are on the way. The challenge is to make sure our residents have the skills and training to succeed in these jobs. That means preparing young people to enter the work force. That means working with unions and trade associations to provide effective apprenticeship and vocational training. That means starting a "Job Opportunity Bank" that helps to train residents for jobs with employers that receive financial support from the District government.
But most of all it means getting serious about literacy. Almost 37 percent of the adults in this city read only at a third grade level. My friends, this is a human tragedy. It is not acceptable that 4 out of 10 residents cannot complete a job application or advance beyond an entry-level position. Whether working to obtain a GED, or learning English for the first time, every adult in this city has the right to learn to read. Today, I pledge to find the funding that will allow us to establish a team of 20 full-time "literacy leaders" from other career paths, help them become certified to teach adults, and send them to serve in neighborhood-based organizations. I challenge our universities and I challenge the private sector to join me in this pledge: match my funding commitment. If we do that, over the next four years, we can build a team of 60 literacy leaders dedicated to teaching adults to read and write. As a community, we can move the District from one of the lowest literacy rates in the nation to one of the highest by the end of this decade. As Nelson Mandela taught us: "Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world."
In addition to increasing education opportunities for our people, we must strengthen the District's primary health care system. By providing a "medical home" in our neighborhoods to uninsured adults, working poor residents and all children, we can combat the diseases that plague our residents: diabetes, hypertension, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS. We have made progress, but we cannot rest, not when our infant mortality rate remains so alarmingly high. And certainly not when the life expectancy of an African American man in this city is 57 years old.
Nothing opens the door to opportunity like the door to a decent home. We have significantly increased the amount of housing over the past four years, and I'm proud of that accomplishment. But the need for affordable housing is great. Over the next four years, we will focus our housing efforts in three critical areas: housing for homeless and very poor people, affordable housing for working poor families, and homeownership for low-to moderate-income people. In the District, as well as in other cities, the tide of men, women and children living on our streets is rising as the economy falls. While we are adding more and more beds in our existing shelters, we are just keeping pace with this growing demand. The District must increase its capacity to provide permanent supportive housing, which will begin to address the underlying issues that lead to homelessness.
The next priority for me in our comprehensive housing strategy is increasing the availability of affordable homes for working poor residents. Many men and women, struggling to support a family on minimum wages, live one emergency away from disaster. For them, an affordable home brings financial stability to the whole family. If we are committed to "opportunity for all," it must include good housing. Our city is fortunate to have a reliable partner at the Department of Housing and Urban Development -- Secretary Mel Martinez. Together we are building thousands of homes and apartments for poor families, seniors and people with special needs. Together we will build thousands more over the next four years. I know we can count on you - and your boss -- Mr. Secretary.
Lastly, we need to recognize that homeownership is the key pathway to economic stability and a life in the economic mainstream. It is essential to building strong neighborhoods. We will put out the welcome sign in every neighborhood - every neighborhood -- of this city. We will encourage teachers, firefighters, nurses, police officers, computer technicians, carpenters and thousands of others to put down roots in our community. To build equity in a home that can be passed down from one generation to the next. We will ask our largest employers to follow the example of Howard University and provide homeownership assistance for employees.
Expanding homeownership is critical if we are to expand our tax base, which we must do if we are to continue building the affordable housing and providing services our people need most. Through a range of homeownership efforts, including attracting market rate housing, we can develop at least 15,000 new homes as part of our goal to bring 100,000 residents to the city within 10 years. We must lure back residents who fled the city in the past, but not at the expense of those who today call the District home. We can do this. We will do this.
The third thing that people have said again and again is that crime in our nation's capital is still too high. Public safety must be a lynchpin of any strategy to improve the neighborhoods we love so much. People won't buy homes if they don't feel safe on our neighborhood streets. They won't send their kids to after-school programs if they worry they won't come home safely. New businesses will not move to our commercial corridors if they fear customers will be scared away by violence.
There is no better way to get in touch with the public safety concerns of our citizens than to spend some time with the dedicated men and women who wear Orange Hats. People like Minnie Green in Petworth, Vince Micone in Dupont Circle and Loree Murray in Near Northeast. These people know every abandoned car, every empty house, every broken street light. They are our partners -- an "early warning" network -- helping to fight crime in our neighborhoods. To all of those who participate in neighborhood watches, wear Orange hat and Red hats, attend Patrol Service Area meetings, volunteer in reserve officer program, I pledge to put even more police officers into our neighborhoods. I've heard how important it is for you to build a strong, working relationship with the commanders and officers that serve your community; how important it is that street lights get fixed, abandoned buildings boarded up and playgrounds cleaned. Making our neighborhoods safe will take all of us together – you, the Metropolitan police, other District agencies and me – to make our neighborhoods safe.
Over the next four years, we will continue our progress in bringing the crime rate down in the District, and bringing it down in our neighborhoods. And that starts with reversing the recent increase in the number of murders. I am not willing to sacrifice one more young person to senseless violence; one more young man to the criminal justice system. Our faith leaders, parents and police officers working together are beginning to make progress in some neighborhoods. We must build on this work. And we must make certain that when someone is killed, that our police force has the capacity to investigate swiftly and thoroughly with the sense of urgency we expect. We owe the victim's family and our community the peace of mind that comes from knowing that a murderer is off the street.
We must also support our concerned parents who fight to keep their kids safe from drugs, but are forced to turn over control of their neighborhoods to drug dealers. We will never get drug dealers off our streets until we make substantial progress in shutting down the demand for illegal drugs. Drug and alcohol abuse are devastating the lives of our people and jeopardizing the safety of too many of our communities. Just ask Sam Foster from Congress Heights. He'll tell you -- as he did me -- that we must increase access to affordable, effective drug treatment programs for our residents. Because for many, access to treatment can make the difference between a life addicted and a life lived freely. Even when funding is tight, this is money well spent.
But despite everything we do to make our city safer, we may never feel completely safe again. That is the legacy of September 11th. We have experienced the pain and fear of terrorism. We know that as the nation's capital we must be fully prepared for more attacks. This is an awesome responsibility for any mayor - for this Mayor. But I vow this city will be prepared if, God forbid, we come under attack again. We have accomplished much to strengthen coordination and communication with federal, regional and local governments, the private sector, service providers and most importantly our citizens. And we will continue to improve our state of readiness. We will do all that we can to keep our city safe – but open -- for our residents and visitors.
And, yes, there is one more commitment I must make to you today. In our efforts to provide a government on which you can depend, we will continue to aggressively pursue those in government who defraud the taxpayers and betray the public trust. You may - you will - hear about government waste, fraud and abuse over the next four years. You will hear about it because I will not tolerate it in my administration. Those who steal will get caught and will get prosecuted to the fullest extent of our laws. I have put in place the highest standards for ethics and performance because that is what it takes to maintain the public trust, your trust. You can count on me for that.
Three messages, three themes, three ideals: The voice of the people. Three priorities for the next four years: educate our children, expand opportunity for all, keep our neighborhoods safe. These are important ideals, critical to achieving our vision for the District. A city that is financially stable because we expanded our economy and negotiated a fair and equitable annual federal contribution. A city where every neighborhood has been touched by its resurgence, with restaurants along Georgia Avenue, shopping in Columbia Heights and small businesses flourishing in every neighborhood. A city where the Anacostia River is the true asset it should be, surrounded by thriving and prosperous neighborhoods. A city dedicated to learning. A city that provides timely, reliable and cost-effective services -- even when it snows.
Standing here today, I see before me the face of Washington. We are a magnificent tapestry made up of many peoples. It is the community we build from that diversity that makes us strong and proud. Today, we have the chance to live up to Dr. King's great dream of inclusiveness, of true democracy, of opportunity for all. Let today be a clarion call that brings together everyone to create a city of learning - a beacon of hope that shines for all the world. One City. One Future.
Back to top of page
Send mail with questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)