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Bodies and Souls in Motion
Anthony A. Williams
Mayor of Washington, D.C.
January 2, 1999
1. Acknowledgements: Judge Hamilton, distinguished public servants, citizens of the
District of Columbia, beloved friends and family. Thank you all. I'd also like to thank
those who cannot be here: my father, Lewis Williams, who passed away last February and for
Steve Wareck, my political father with whom I served in New Haven. Barbara, thank you for
all you and your family has done for me. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to
my daughter Asantewa, for that beautiful poetry reading; to my mother Virginia, who still
hopes to teach me to how to sing; and, most of all, to my wife Diane my partner and
soulmate in life and in love.
2. Mayor Barry, and Cora, we know how much you love the District, and we thank you for
your can-do spirit and your long years of labor on our behalf .... Mayor Washington and
Mayor Kelly, I know that your devotion to our city will never wane, and I intend to learn
from your experiences ....
3. Friends, it is indeed appropriate to hold an inauguration at the start of a New
Year. This is a time for renewal and recommitment, for dreaming and for doing. for healing
4. Let me begin by stating the obvious: I am not a professional politician. I am one of
the few Mayors in America who gets excited about delving into the intricacies of asset
management or performance contracting. I am, in fact, a proud, card-carrying member of the
Government Finance Officers Association. And I don't just wear bow ties; I actually like
5. Veteran politician or not, I have come here through the political process that we
call democracy. My candidacy was the result of a grass roots movement of civi-minded folks
parents, teachers, homeowners. college students, government workers, entrepreneurs,
even a few attorneys. These were everyday citizens who decided they wanted a policy wonk
in City Hall and then made it happen through coalitions in every one of our 140 precincts.
We brought together black and white. Latino and Asian, gay and straight, rich and poor,
unions and management, women and men, young and old. Everybody played a role, and that
continued right through the transition.
6. The community has come together, and that inspires me. It reminds me of the timeless
words of Dr. King, from that final Sunday morning sermon he delivered right here in
Washington at the National Cathedral. Four days before his death, Dr. King preached that
too many Americans were sleepwalking through history; and in particular, he expressed his
great outrage that, in the intervening years since the Kerner Commission report on poverty
in America's cities, nothing had been done. He said, and I quote, "Nothing has been
done ... and nothing will be done, until people of good will put their bodies and their
souls in motion'' for change.
7. Well, Dr. King, those people of good will are here today. We are putting our bodies
and souls in motion. And a great deal will be done.
8. Of course, no coalition agrees upon everything, but one thing we all share is a deep
and abiding love for this city, Washington, D.C. We believe in this city. We see its
promise. We love its children. We know its history. We take pride in its distinctive
neighborhoods--from Georgia Avenue to Georgetown, from Anacostia to Adams-Morgan, from
Shaw to Southwest. We call D.C. home. Forty-four years ago, my parents adopted me and gave
me a second chance. I feel this city has now adopted me and I will give to it everything
my parents taught me about love, service, commitment.
9. We join hands today united by a simple vision: Our citizens deserve the best city in
America. The very best. That means strong schools, safe streets, clean communities,
affordable housing, and reliable transportation. It means access to health care. It means
quality services for seniors. It means a rich social and cultural life. It means vibrant
economies downtown and in the neighborhoods. It means true inclusion, a seat at the
table for all. It means taking advantage of the District's truly unique assets
tourism that is second to none, unique partnerships with federal agencies, a strong
regional economy that lacks only a vital urban center. Most of all, being the best means
putting our bodies and souls in motion empowering men, women, and children of all
communities to solve problems together. To come together, to work together, to succeed
10. You will notice that in articulating my vision I have not used the word
government.' Not that our work isn't critical. It is. It matters profoundly.
And yet. government should never be viewed first and foremost as an end in itself, but
rather as a means to achieve other ends, like justice, opportunity, prosperity, safety,
health, equality and education. I vow to work for these great human goals as your Mayor,
and, in particular, to put the education and wellbeing of our children and our youth at
the very top of my every effort.
11. Young people are our future and must be our focus. In the warmth of my home, as in
most families, we were taught to see the grace of God in every child's face. But in the
cold reality of America's cities, we have been forced to learn the bitter lesson that we
are diminished as a people when our children suffer and despair. We have watched the sons
of the District die in pools of blood on their front porches or trade the best years of
their lives for a ticket to Lorton. We have seen the daughters of the District plan
funerals instead of their careers or become mothers when they still need mothering. We
have heard bright students tell of perverse cultures in their schools that turn good
things like the honor roll into a badge of shame. These are the deepest challenges we face
as a city and a society. The fate of our children is the final and best measure of whether
anything we do on God's good earth is actually worth the effort. We must save the
children. Let us put our bodies and souls in motion on behalf of our children.
12. If we are to realize this vision of making our city the best city, it is essential
that we make steady and simultaneous progress on four equally important fronts. First, we
need to return to having one unified municipal government in the District, led by
officials who are directly accountable to the voters. Later today, we will make a very
promising start toward that goal when Alice Rivlin and I sign a memorandum of agreement to
restore authority for daily city operations to the Mayor's office. For their respect for
the elected officials in this city and their confidence in our work together, I would like
to express my gratitude to Alice Rivlin, members of the Control Board, and Eleanor Holmes
Norton and the bipartisan group of Congressional leaders who supported this strong first
13. Second, we need to promote good government, efficient and effective government.
Municipal government can and must do big and bold things here in Washington. It can and
must improve the schools. It can and must stimulate investment. It can and must plan for
new workforce needs. It can and must invest in cutting edge technology. It can and must
mend the safety net. It can and must hire the best minds and the brightest talent.
14. But first, the fundamentals. We have to go back to the basics. We need to fill the
potholes. We need to sweep the streets. We need to exterminate the rats, wash away the
graffiti, repair the road signs, and collect the garbage. We need to beautify the parks,
inspect run-down buildings, organize our records. We need sewers that drain. We need 9-1-1
that responds. And, fellow citizens, we need to free ourselves from the tyranny of those
15. Remember, friends, we are starting over and we need to start at the beginning. For
this month, maybe the most important thing is the phones. We need to reduce the time that
citizens are put on hold, or bounced through purgatory only to find that no one can answer
their question. We need to replace "I don't know" with "I'll find
out," and "It's not my job" with "Let me try to help."
16. The fact is, government has to deliver. It has to work. We don't need promises, we
don't need excuses. We need results. No task is too small to make a difference. Caring is
delivering. Caring is making an impact, not just an impression. The city must command
respect, not just demand it. And with success, ladies and gentleman, will come trust, will
come that respect.
17. This will not be easy, and change will come in increments. We will need to develop
clear performance measures for all who work in government, provide training for those who
need it, and hold our managers accountable for results. We'll test ourselves with customer
satisfaction surveys. We can do this, if we try hard enough. And my friends, let me tell
you something: One way or another those phones will be answered promptly and
18. The third front is self-government. Today marks the twenty-fourth anniversary of
our one giant step toward self-government--the inauguration of Mayor Walter E. Washington
and our first elected D.C. Council. And on that day, Mayor Washington used the bully
pulpit to urge Congress to give the District full control of our budget and full
representation on Capital Hill. Well, what has changed in the world since 1975? Not much,
you would think ... except for the collapse of the Berlin Wall, free elections in Eastern
Europe, the abolition of Apartheid, and progress toward peace in Northern Ireland and the
Middle East. And here we are, citizens in the capital city of the world's oldest
democracy, still pleading for our rights? Eleanor Holmes Norton represents us wisely and
well. It's only right that our representative should be able to cast votes for us on the
floor and earn seniority in the House. We must work for full representation for our
19. Let us not deceive ourselves: Self-governance is a prerequisite of true freedom. A
city that governs itself makes decisions that voters can evaluate. A city that governs
itself finds joy in solving problems. A city that governs itself owns up to its mistakes.
A city that governs itself grows young leaders. Make no mistake Mayor Washington and all
who love liberty, self-governance is our destiny. It is not a matter of why but when. The
epicenter of democracy must reflect the core values of democracy. And I promise that the
Williams administration will be a tireless champion of that cause.
20. One government, good government, self-government that's what we need
and one more thing, the true engine of lasting renewal for our city: civic leadership. The
fact is, by itself government can't solve many substantial problems. It can't legislate
community. It can't mandate understanding. It can't lift every voice and sing. It can't
create love or that spark of democratic fellow-feeling which leads one citizen to
sacrifice for another.
21. This town is known for its pundits and commentators. But for the task at hand, we
don't need people up in the booth doing color commentary, or in the stands cheering or
booing. We need folks down on the field, blocking and tackling, maybe getting sacked, but
getting up and helping us advance the ball a yard at a time as we move toward victory.
That is my message today: C'mon out of the stands, people. Suit up. Get in the game. Let's
win this together.
22. I know we have the human resources for the task before us. This city is a
wellspring of humanity and ability. We have heart and an army of unsung heroes. I am
thinking about 82 year-old Lillian Robinson, who refused to give up on her house on
Oakdale Place in LeDroit Park even after every other house on the block was abandoned; now
those houses are being renovated thanks to a public/private partnership and Mrs. Robinson
will have neighbors again. I am thinking about Virginia Ali, owner of Ben's Chili Bowl,
who rode out the bleak years on U Street because she believed not only in preserving jobs
but also in preserving culture and community. And I am thinking about Cedric Jennings, a
1995 graduate of Ballou High School, whose tenacious struggle to earn acceptance to Brown
University shows you everything you need to know about our community's passionate,
ingrained hope in the unseen.
23. Such strong citizens .... That is our natural advantage. That is our hometown
power. That is the content of our character. Rest easy, Dr. King. The District has people
of good will. Our bodies and souls are in motion. The dream is at hand, much will be done,
and we will not let you down. Thank you.