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Bodies and Souls in Motion
Anthony A. Williams
Inauguration Speech Notes
January 2, 1999




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Bodies and Souls in Motion
Inaugural Remarks
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 and hope.

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 them.

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 together.

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 step.

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 DMV lines!

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 professionally.

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 citizens.

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.

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