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    Office Of The Mayor

    Spirit of Justice: Inaugural Address of John DeStefano, Jr., 49th Mayor of the City of New Haven January 1, 1998


    SWEARING IN.

    THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH. AND WELCOME TO NEW HAVEN CITY HALL TODAY AS THE BOARD OF ALDERMAN AND I MARK THE INAUGURAL OF OUR TWO YEAR'S WORK BEFORE US.

    MY THANKS TO JUDGE LUBBIE HARPER JR. WHO TODAY ADMINISTERED THE OATH OF OFFICE TO ME. JUDGE HARPER'S STORY IS ONE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT AND SERVICE TO HIS CITY. AND MOST OF ALL HE HAS BEEN, AND IS, MY GOOD FRIEND.

    THANK YOU, JUDGE.

    STANLEY ROGERS AND THE BOARD OF ALDERMEN.

    CONGRATULATIONS TO STANLEY ROGERS AS HE TAKES UP HIS SECOND FULL TERM IN OFFICE AS NEW HAVEN CITY CLERK. THROUGHOUT THE YEAR AND ASIDE FROM THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF HIS OFFICE, STANLEY IS A SOURCE OF GUIDANCE FOR WHICH I AM ALWAYS GRATEFUL.

    MY BEST WISHES AS WELL TO THE BOARD OF ALDERMEN WHO TODAY SHARE WITH ME THIS PLATFORM. FROM THE NEWEST MEMBERS OF THE BOARD WHO TAKE UP THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES AS ELECTED OFFICIALS FOR THE FIRST TIME TODAY, TO LUISA DELAURO WHO TAKES THIS OATH FOR THE 17th TIME, - MAY ALL OF OUR ACTIONS BE GUIDED BY WHAT WE MIGHT DO BEST ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY.

    THE COMMITTEE AND KATHY.

    MY SPECIAL THANKS TO THE COMMITTEE WHO ORGANIZED THIS CEREMONY, WHO HELPED BRING US TO THIS MOMENT, AND TO ALL WHO ARE PARTICIPATING IN IT TODAY.

    FINALLY, MY LOVE TO MY FAMILY,

    • TO JIM AND DAN;
    • TO MY MOM AND MY SISTERS;
    • TO ALL OF YOU HERE WITH ME TODAY,

    YOU ARE TERRIFIC.

    AND PARTICULARLY TO KATHY, WHO IS THE CENTER OF OUR FAMILY. WHO,

    • FACES 24 KINDERGARTENERS EACH DAY;
    • WHO HAS HER OWN HOME WORK AND CLASS WORK TO DO AS SHE FINISHES HER MASTERS DEGREE; AND
    • WHO IS A GOOD FRIEND TO SO MANY PEOPLE,

    YOU ARE A COMPLETE PACKAGE. YOU DO IT ALL, AND YOU HAVE MY LOVE AND ADMIRATION EACH AND EVERY DAY.

    COMMUNITY OF HOPE.

    EXACTLY TWO YEARS AGO AT THIS MOMENT AND PLACE, I SPOKE OF A VISION OF NEW HAVEN. A VISION OF NEW HAVEN AS A COMMUNITY OF HOPE.

    AND I HAVE NOT BEEN DISAPPOINTED. IN THE PAST TWO YEARS, WE HAVE SOWN SEEDS OF HOPE AND PROGRESS FOR OUR COMMUNITY. WE HAVE RECLAIMED LOST CONFIDENCE IN OURSELVES AND IN OUR NEIGHBORHOODS. WE HAVE BEEN WITNESS TO THE POWER OF A PEOPLE COMMITTED TO THE REMAKING OF THEIR CITY.

    AND NO ONE HAS SEEN IT AS CLEARLY AS ME.

    1. I HAVE SEEN IT IN THE WORK AND THE SWEAT OF 20 NEIGHBORS LABORING IN THE HEAT OF SUMMER IN A COMMUNITY GARDEN ON WINCHESTER AVENUE.

    2. I HAVE SEEN IT IN THE CLASSROOMS OF OUR SCHOOLS WHERE STUDENTS AND TEACHERS WORK WITH A SHARED PURPOSE, TO DO BETTER.

    3. I HAVE SEEN IT IN THE EYES OF ROY AND PAT HIGDON, TWO HOMEOWNERS ON EMERSON STREET, WHO JOINED THE CITY IN LAUNCHING OUR NEW HOUSE PAINTING PROGRAM.

    4. I HAVE SEEN IT IN THE GROUPS OF NEIGHBORS FROM ARCH STREET, AND FARREN AVENUE, AND DIVISION STREET WHO HAVE COME TO SEE ME AT MAYOR'S NIGHT IN, OR AT MAYOR'S NIGHT OUT.

    I HAVE BEEN INSPIRED BY THEIR ABSOLUTE DETERMINATION TO PRESERVE WHAT IT IS THAT IS BEST ABOUT THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD, AND TO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO MAKE THEIR BLOCKS EVEN BETTER.

    5. AND, I HAVE SEEN IT IN THE COMMITMENT OF DOZENS OF BUSINESSES WHICH HAVE EXPANDED OR LOCATED IN THE CITY. THEIR CONFIDENCE IN OUR ECONOMIC WELL BEING, REACHES FROM THE WILLIAMS STEEL PLANT THAT WILL COMMENCE CONSTRUCTION IN THE CEDAR HILL RAIL YARDS LATER THIS YEAR, TO FRANK'S HARDWARE, A 43 YEAR OLD FAMILY BUSINESS THAT EXPANDED TO GRAND AVENUE LAST YEAR.

    COMMUNITY.

    THESE THINGS ARE HAPPENING IN NEW HAVEN DAY IN AND DAY OUT. IN A MILLION UNREMARKABLE WAYS, WE HAVE ACHIEVED A REMARKABLE THING.

    IN THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS WE HAVE REACHED OUT TO ONE ANOTHER AND IN SO DOING HAVE DISCOVERED WHAT WAS ALWAYS THERE BENEATH, A COMMUNITY OF NEIGHBORS.

    WE HAVE REBORN HOPE IN OUR CITY. WE HAVE OUR CONFIDENCE BACK. AND, WE HAVE WELCOMED THE PEOPLE OF OUR CITY TO THE TASK OF BUILDING THEIR OWN FUTURE.

    OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS WE HAVE USED COMMUNITY TO OUR ADVANTAGE. BY JOINING TOGETHER, BY WORKING TOGETHER, WE HAVE BECOME, SOMEHOW, BIGGER:

    • BIGGER IN PURPOSE;
    • LARGER IN CAPACITY; AND
    • GREATER IN HEART.

    SUCH A PLACE IS OUR CITY. IT STIRS OUR SOUL, IT DEMANDS OUR BEST, AND IT FINDS ITS EXPRESSION IN ITS PEOPLE. IN ONE ANOTHER, WE HAVE FOUND OUR STRENGTH IN WHO WE ARE AS A COMMUNITY.

    AMISTAD.

    AND IT IS BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT WE ARE STRONGER, THAT WE ARE MORE CAPABLE WHEN THE SPIRIT OF COMMUNITY TOUCHES ALL OF US, THAT WE EMBRACE DIVERSITY AND REACH OUT AND CONNECT TO THE LEAST OF US. THE POOR. THE HUNGRY. THE SICK.

    AND WHY SHOULD IT BE ANY OTHER WAY, FOR THIS IS OUR LEGACY. NEW HAVEN'S LEGACY. AS THE YEAR DRAWS TO A CLOSE, THE STORY OF THE AMISTAD AND IT'S CONNECTION TO OUR CITY, A STORY OF HOPE AND OF STRUGGLE, HAS SPREAD ACROSS AMERICA, AND BEYOND.

    COULD THE PEOPLE OF NEW HAVEN IN 1839 HAVE POSSIBLY IMAGINED THE HISTORIC PROPORTION OF THE EVENTS WHICH ENVELOPED THIS COMMUNITY? COULD ANY ONE OF THEM HAVE KNOWN THAT THE STORY OF JOSEPH CINQUE, HIS FELLOW AFRICANS AND THE PEOPLE OF NEW HAVEN WOULD CHANGE THE COURSE OF THIS NATION? THAT IT WOULD RESONATE TO THIS DAY, ON THE EVE OF A NEW MILLENNIUM?

    THE ACTIONS OF THE PEOPLE OF NEW HAVEN NEARLY 160 YEARS AGO HAVE LEFT US A LEGACY TO WHICH WE ARE DUTY BOUND. IN THE WORK OF NEW HAVEN'S FIRST AMISTAD COMMITTEE WE FIND THE FOUNDATION OF A SET OF VALUES FOR OUR COMMUNITY WHICH SHINE BRILLIANTLY TO THIS DAY. A LEGACY AND A SPIRIT OF:

    • HUMAN DIGNITY;
    • OF OPPORTUNITY;
    • OF FAIRNESS; AND OF
    • FREEDOM;

    THE STORY OF THE AMISTAD TELLS US SOMETHING PROFOUND ABOUT OUR MOST BASIC INSTITUTIONS. IT TELLS US THAT EVEN IN THE MOST TUMULTUOUS TIMES, PEOPLE OF CONSCIENCE CAN AND WILL STAND TOGETHER AND WORK TOGETHER, CITIZENS AND GOVERNMENT, TO FULFILL THE IMPERATIVE OF A PEOPLE TO,

    - AS JOSEPH CINQUE SAID......."GIVE US FREE".

    A SPIRIT OF JUSTICE HANDED DOWN THROUGH THE YEARS, SOMETIMES DORMANT, BUT NEVER LOST.

    KENNEDY.

    TODAY AND EACH DAY OF OUR LIVES WE ARE CHALLENGED BY THIS LEGACY. CHALLENGED BY THE INJUSTICES, THE VIOLENCE, BY THE CHAINS, OF OUR TIMES. AND THEY ARE THERE.

    PERHAPS NOT THE OBVIOUSLY BRUTAL PHYSICAL PUNISHMENT ANY LONGER, BUT RATHER A DIFFERENT KIND.

    A KIND WELL DESCRIBED BY ROBERT KENNEDY. HE SAID IT THIS WAY:

    "FOR THERE IS ANOTHER KIND OF VIOLENCE, SLOWER BUT JUST AS DEADLY, DESTRUCTIVE AS THE SHOT OR THE BOMB IN THE NIGHT. THIS IS THE VIOLENCE OF INSTITUTIONS; INDIFFERENCE AND INACTION AND SLOW DECAY. THIS IS THE VIOLENCE THAT AFFLICTS THE POOR, THAT POISONS THE RELATIONS BETWEEN MEN BECAUSE THEIR SKIN HAS DIFFERENT COLORS. THIS IS A SLOW DESTRUCTION OF A CHILD BY HUNGER, AND SCHOOLS WITHOUT BOOKS AND HOMES WITHOUT HEAT IN THE WINTER....

    HE SAID,

    OF COURSE WE CANNOT VANQUISH IT WITH A PROGRAM, NOR WITH A RESOLUTION. BUT WE CAN PERHAPS REMEMBER- EVEN IF ONLY FOR A TIME - THAT THOSE WHO LIVE WITH US ARE OUR BROTHERS, THAT THEY SHARE WITH US THE SAME SHORT MOVEMENT OF LIFE,

    THAT THEY SEEK - AS WE DO - NOTHING BUT THE CHANCE TO LIVE OUT THEIR LIVES IN PURPOSE AND HAPPINESS, WINNING WHAT SATISFACTION AND FULFILLMENT THEY CAN."

    KENNEDY SAID THAT ON APRIL 5, 1968,

    ONE DAY AFTER DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.'S

    MURDER,

    AND 60 DAYS BEFORE HIS OWN.

    AND SO IT IS THAT IT IS OUR SOLEMN DUTY AS CITIZENS,

    IT IS OUR OBLIGATION AS MEMBERS OF THIS COMMUNITY, TO ENSURE THAT A SPIRIT OF JUSTICE FILLS, AND OVERFLOWS, FROM THE INSTITUTIONS OF OUR LIVES:

    • FROM OUR GOVERNMENT;
    • FROM OUR WORKPLACES;
    • FROM OUR NEIGHBORHOODS; AND
    • FROM OUR FAMILIES AND OURSELVES.

    CHAINS OF INJUSTICE.

    A SPIRIT OF JUSTICE THAT POINTS TO THE TRUTH OF THE CHAINS ALL AROUND US.

    1. THE CHAINS THAT FOR ALL THAT WE ARE DOING IN OUR SCHOOLS AND DOING WELL, MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE. IF OUR CHILDREN ARE EXPECTED TO COMPETE FOR THE BETTER THINGS IN LIFE, THEN LET'S SEE TO IT THAT ALL OF THEM, NOT JUST SOME OF THEM, AS OCCASIONED BY THE ACCIDENT OF THE LOCATION OF THEIR BIRTH, ARE GIVEN A CHANCE TO SUCCEED.

    PRE-SCHOOL, CHILD CARE, HEALTH CARE, AFTER SCHOOL ACTIVITIES, A RICH EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT, ARE ESSENTIAL TO PROVIDING A FAIR CHANCE FOR OUR KIDS.

    THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT NEEDS TO RECOGNIZE THE TRUTH OF THIS INJUSTICE AND MAKE PUBLIC EDUCATION WORK AS WE ALL KNOW IT CAN. THERE SHOULD BE NO REDUCTION IN THE STATE INCOME TAX IN 1998, OR BEYOND, UNTIL CONNECTICUT MAKES THIS INVESTMENT AND BREAKS THE CHAINS IN OUR SCHOOLS.

    2. THE CHAINS CAN BE FOUND IN THE CONTINUING RACIAL AND ECONOMIC SEGREGATION OF OUR NATION'S CITIES - AND IN THE GROWING ISOLATION OF THEIR RESIDENTS FROM THE MAINSTREAM OF AMERICA.

    THERE IS NO SPIRIT OF JUSTICE IN OUR NATION'S RETREAT FROM THE UNFULFILLED PROMISE OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY. THERE IS NO MORE BASIC RIGHT NOR JUST CAUSE THAN THE RIGHT TO WORK. TO WORK AT JOBS WHICH SUSTAIN US AND OUR FAMILIES. JOBS THAT AFFORD US DIGNITY AND OPPORTUNITY.

    FOR THERE IS NO GREATER SENSE OF CONTRIBUTION A MAN OR A WOMAN MIGHT MAKE, THAN THE FRUITS OF THEIR LABOR WHICH BIND THEM TO FAMILY AND COMMUNITY.

    WE CAN CHOOSE TO DO MORE. TO MOVE WORK TO THE PLACES WHERE PEOPLE SEEK IT. WE CAN BETTER PREPARE PEOPLE FOR WORK. AND THE PLAIN FACT IS THAT STATE LAND USE POLICY, TAX POLICY, AND INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT CAN BE TOOLS TO ACHIEVE JUSTICE - RATHER THAN TO DEFEAT IT.

    3. THE CHAINS CAN BE FOUND IN OUR URBAN NEIGHBORHOODS WHERE CITIES STRUGGLE DAILY, BLOCK BY BLOCK, AGAINST THE FORCES OF BLIGHT AND FLIGHT, ROBBING OUR CITIES OF PROPERTY WEALTH, OUR NEIGHBORS OF DECENT HOUSING, AND OUR FAMILIES OF WORK.

    THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THIS CITY AT:

    • COMMUNITY BASED POLICING;
    • THROUGH IT'S LIVABLE CITY INITIATIVE;
    • IT'S ENTERPRISE COMMUNITY EFFORTS; AND
    • AT REDUCING INFANT MORTALITY AND PROVIDING GOOD CHILD CARE,

    ALL UNDERSCORE OUR COMMITMENT TO, AND THE EFFORT OF THE PEOPLE OF THIS CITY, TO BUILD STRONG NEIGHBORHOODS THAT ARE DECENT AND SAFE. WE ARE SUCCEEDING IN THESE EFFORTS, BUT NOT EVERYONE HAS MADE IT TO THE TABLE OF OPPORTUNITY.

    FAMILIES AND NEIGHBORHOODS NEED,

    • TO BE BETTER PROTECTED FROM A STATE TAX STRUCTURE THAT TRANSFERS TAX BASE WEALTH FROM THE CENTRAL CITIES,
    • BETTER PROTECTED FROM A JUSTICE SYSTEM THAT FAILS TO ADJUDICATE MORE THAN 60% OF CASES AFTER ARREST, AND
    • BETTER PROTECTED FROM POLICIES AND LAWS THAT CONCENTRATE ALL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE THE LEAST AMONG US - UPON JUST SOME OF US - WITHOUT FAIR COMPENSATION.

    A TRUE SPIRIT OF JUSTICE WILL SEE ALL OF THESE CHAINS BROKEN IN TIME. AND REGARDLESS OF WHEN THEY ARE BROKEN - AS SURELY THEY WILL BE - IT IS UP TO US,

    • IN OUR NEIGHBORHOODS;
    • IN OUR FAMILIES;
    • AND IN OUR HEARTS,

    TO BUILD COMMUNITY. A COMMUNITY WHERE ALL ARE VALUED AND WHERE ALL ARE GIVEN THE TOOLS TO ACHIEVE THEIR POTENTIAL.

    THE NEXT TWO YEARS.

    IN NEW HAVEN AS WE BUILD SUCCESS IN THE COMING YEARS, WE WILL CONTINUE TO MEASURE THE REAL WEALTH, THE RICHNESS OF OUR COMMUNITY, BY FINDING THE BETTER NATURE OF OURSELVES IN REACHING OUT TO THE LEAST OF US.

    THE PEOPLE OF THIS CITY IN 1839 KNEW THIS SPIRIT, AND ACTED UPON IT. THEY NOT ONLY FULFILLED THE IMPERATIVE OF 39 KIDNAPPED AFRICANS "TO GIVE US FREE", BUT IN SO DOING IMMORTALIZED THEIR OWN HUMANNESS, AND, IN THE PROCESS, THEY SHAMED THE MEAN AND THE NARROW AMONG THEM.

    AN ACT OF COURAGE SO POWERFUL THAT IT ENDURES TO THIS DAY 159 YEARS LATER, WHEN SO LITTLE ELSE OF THEIR DAY, IS SUSTAINED.

    CONCLUSION.

    TODAY, AS I TAKE THE OATH OF OFFICE FOR A THIRD TERM AS NEW HAVEN'S 49th MAYOR, I PLEDGE TO YOU AND TO THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE US, TO CARRY ON THE LEGACY.

    TO BUILD ON THE CONFIDENCE THAT WE'VE WON BACK. TO CONTINUE THE WORK OF REMAKING AND GROWING THE CITY, TO CONTINUE TO LET OUR BETTER NATURES GUIDE US AS WE DEFINE AND SET OURSELVES APART AS A COMMUNITY OF HOPE, INFUSED WITH A SPIRIT OF JUSTICE.

    TO WORK WITH THIS BOARD OF ALDERMEN SEATED BEFORE YOU TODAY, AND WITH IT'S LEADERSHIP, TO CARRY ON THE TRADITIONS OF THIS COMMUNITY'S COMMITMENT TO,

    • EQUALITY;
    • FAIRNESS;
    • OPPORTUNITY; AND
    • JUSTICE.

    A WORK IN WHOSE LABOR, I CAN PERSONALLY FIND NO GREATER HONOR.

    IN THE WEEKS AND MONTHS AHEAD, I ASK EACH OF YOU TO JOIN ME IN THIS WORK OF CONSCIENCE AND COMMITMENT.

    LET OUR EXAMPLE OF HOPE AND UNITY, IN THIS TIME, DEFINE OUR COMMUNITY TO THE WORLD AS THE AMISTAD COMMITTEE ONCE DID. LET OUR EFFORTS BE CAUSE FOR PRIDE FOR THE GENERATIONS WHICH FOLLOW.

    GOD BLESS OUR CITY, AND ALL IT'S PEOPLE.

    THANK YOU.

    January 7,1998
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