In 2nd Term, Governor Pledges to Take On the Biggest Challenges Facing New York State Today: Restoring the Promise of Education, Creating New Economic Opportunities, and Securing Justice for All
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul today delivered inaugural addresses at a ceremony in One World Trade Center in New York City. With a renewed focus on the State's most pressing issues and a signal of progress to come, the Governor's address highlighted core pillars of his administration's agenda:
- Create economic opportunity for all;
- Create the best education system in the world; and
- Restore confidence and trust in the justice system both in perception and in reality.
Audio of the Governor's remarks is available in MP3 here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks can be found below:
Thank you very much. First, to Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy, who said it all. Bob and I have had a heck of a four years together. A lot of late nights; a lot of stress. A lot of bad days; a lot of good days. And going through the situation that we went through, you really learn a lot about the other person. And a finer public servant – a finer man I have never worked with in my life than Bob Duffy. He epitomizes everything the Administration is about. He is hard work. He is integrity. He is performance. And he is in the business for all the right reasons. We're really going to miss him. We love him. Let's give him a big round of applause, Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy.
So we really did have big shoes to fill, literally and metaphorically, when we had to replace Bob Duffy. And we found a superstar and you heard from her now. The more you see her, the more you're going to love her. She is great. Former Congresswoman from Buffalo, New York and Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul. Let's give her a round of applause.
I want to thank Judge Sheila Abdul- Salaam, who is very impressive. Court of Appeals judge. I wonder who appointed her. Oh, I did. That's right. Let's give her a round of applause, Sheila Abdul- Salaam.
My good friend for many years, Mayor Bill de Blasio. Thank you very much for being with us, Mayor.
We have our friends from the congressional delegation. Senator Chuck Schumer, Congresswoman Caroline Maloney, Congressman Pete King, Congressman Engel I see. Congressman Gregory Meeks – that's too good-looking to be Gregory Meeks. Is that Gregory Meeks? The congressional delegation is very important to the way we do business, for the State to do what it needs to do—Congresswoman Nita Lowey—for the State to do what it needs to do as aggressively as we've been doing it. We really need the federal government to be part of it and to be working with us and they have been there every step of the way. I call Senator Schumer sometimes; I ask him for some things and I can hear the shock on the other end of the phone but he never says no and he always goes to it and they have delivered for us time and time again – whether it's money for Hurricane Sandy 60 billion dollars, money for the Tappan Zee Bridge that Congresswoman Lowey got us. Time and time again, they've been there. We couldn't do what we do without them. Let's give them a round of applause, we thank them very much.
And Speaker Silver and Senator Marty Golden who represent the Senate and the Assembly for us today who are our partners every step of the way – pleasure to be with you. Thank them.
Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins: pleasure to be with you, Andrea. Thank you for your leadership.
County Executive Mangano, County Executive Bellone, and Linda Mangano, pleasure to be with you.
You heard from Reverend Karim Camara who gave us the opening prayer. He's also a fantastic, fantastic Assemblyman. Pleasure to be with you, Reverend Karim Camara.
Rabbi Michael Miller who did the opening. He also brought us to Israel right at the time of the intifada, when Israel was really going through a period of violence. We said that was the best time to go because we wanted to make a statement. Some people didn't understand that logic immediately but it was the best time to go in terms of a show of solidarity and I knew Michael in New York and how great he was in New York. You see him in Israel, he's even stronger. And I was so proud as the Governor of New York to lead a delegation that went and visited Israel when Israel really needed friends and New York was there for Israel and we always will be. Thank you very much Michael Miller.
You're going to hear from Reverend A.R. Bernard who has been a great friend and is a great inspirational leader for thousands and thousands of New Yorkers – he is going to be doing the closing benediction. Thank you very much Reverend A.R. Bernard.
Bob Duffy used the word team when he talked about my family – he was right. You don't become Governor without a team. You can't manage the State without the team. And my administration is all about a quality team. I'm just the good looks of the operation, I want you to know – yeah, then we'd be really in trouble. But it is about my team. Both my professional team and my family that is a team. And you saw Sandy and Cara and Maria who are here. I have brothers and sisters: Madeline is here, Maria is here, Margaret is here, Aunt Nancy, Uncle Bob, Lisa, Larry Bolinski, Howard Maier, Uncle Bryan and – uh, what's your name? I see you on CNN every morning. You look just like me, just not as good looking – oh, Chris Cuomo is here! My little brother is here. So they are my family and they've been great all through this.
We're missing one family member. My father is not with us today. We had hoped that he was going to be able to come; he is at home and he is not well enough to come. We spent last night with him, changed the tradition a little bit. We weren't in Albany last night; we stayed at my father's house to ring in the New Year with him. I went through the speech with him. He said it was good, especially for a second-termer. See, my father is a third-termer. But he sends his regards to all of you. He couldn't be here physically today, my father. But my father is in this room. He is in the heart and mind of every person who is here. He is here and he is here, and his inspiration and his legacy and his experience is what has brought this state to this point. So let's give him a round of applause.
And I want to thank you all very much for taking the time to be here on a New Year. It is fitting, when we begin a new year it is a natural point of reflection. We review the past, we plan for the future, we make great resolutions on how we're going to do even better. I want you to know that my resolutions are still intact. Twelve hours, it's a new record for me.
Four years ago when I took office, as you heard from Kathy and you heard from Bob, New York was a much, much different place. And we were facing daunting challenges. More people were unemployed than at any time since the Great Depression when we took over. Upstate New York was hemorrhaging young people. You would go to the airports and you would see young people getting on planes because they believed there was no future left in upstate New York. The state government that was supposed to help, that was supposed to be solving problems, was all about gridlock and all about dysfunction. And there was a pervasive foreboding sense that the best days of New York were behind it and that it was getting worse and you felt that sense growing.
I said at my first inauguration that we can't underestimate the severity of the times. That this was not a moment for more speeches, it was about action. It was about results and it was not about rhetoric. And that is what we did – we made the government work.
We restored the economy; we created 500,000 private sector jobs. This state today has 7.6 million jobs, more than have ever existed in the history of the State of New York. That is what we have today. We turned a $10 billion deficit into a $5 billion surplus. We put cranes in the sky in places that thought they were extinct. We expanded affordable housing, we passed universal Pre-K, we gave hard-working families a tax cut. We expanded healthcare, 1.5 million more New Yorkers are covered now then were before.
We made New York fairer with marriage equality, we made New York safer by passing sensible gun control. We set a national standard and committed this state to be the first state in the nation to end the AIDS epidemic in the next decade and we are going to do it.
We did this. And the emphasis is on the "We." "We" are the upstate business people who choose to stay and continue to hope. "We" are the public employees; the teachers, the police, the firefighters who serve and protect. "We" are the members of the New York State Assembly. "We" are the members of the New York State Senate. "We" are the colleagues in the federal delegation. "We" are Republicans and Democrats who put New York first and political party second even in this age of hyper partisanship. Because we remembered what we were there to do, which was to serve the public and not serve our political interests.
We are the New Yorkers who put aside our differences to find commonality to move this state forward. Now even with all we have done, our task is far from complete. We have much more to do. We have to rebuild the upstate economy all across upstate New York by replicating the successful model that we have used in Buffalo. We must address chronic high poverty in this state, in many of our urban areas from the south Bronx to Rochester. We must demand that the value of an hour's work, the minimum wage, is sufficient to mean that you don't have to choose between paying the rent and putting food on the table.
We still lock up too many young people in prisons at too young an age at too great a cost and that has to stop.
Women are still too often victims of violence and are still trapped under a glass ceiling and still need a full Women's Equality Act to give them full equality in this society.
We must maintain our fiscal discipline and continue to provide tax relief for struggling families and growing businesses.
We must do more for ethics reform to build trust which is lifeblood of any government.
Our education system, while better than it was, is far from what we need to lead the global economy. We have new and growing challenges that we didn't have before, such as climate change and extreme weather, which have brought New York tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms, and floods. Seven feet of snow in Buffalo, more than ever before and that is saying something. I wouldn't be surprised to see locusts next, coming up Broadway. We have new challenges to our public health system, like the Ebola virus. We have new challenges to our public safety system where thirteen years after 9/11 terrorism has metastasized from Africa to Asia, from Hamas to ISIS.
These are challenges to be sure. But the past four years have renewed our confidence and shown us what we can accomplish when we work together. Remember how far we have come. It is time to be bold my friends because there is no small solution to big problems. We can do all this that I have mentioned and we can do more. And we must.
Because in many ways the most severe problems we face go beyond the borders of our state and the challenges are profound. We have seen the national unrest and the national discord; the American promise itself is being questioned. The offer of fairness and opportunity that was the American compact is now in doubt.
Americans are disheartened and disappointed by the economic climate and rightly so. We are told the recession is over, we read reports that say the economic numbers are going up, up and up but we work harder and we earn less.
Americans are rightly disheartened and disappointed by the economic climate and rightly so. We are told the recession is over, we read reports that say the economic numbers are going up and up but we work harder and we earn less. Income inequality is at the highest in over a century. While American capitalism never guaranteed success, it did guaranteed opportunity. Too many Americans are questioning the long held belief that their children's future will be better than their own. For too many the dream of economic mobility has been replaced with the nightmare of economic stagnation.
For previous generations our education system was one of hope, it was an escalator out of poverty. The public education system could take an Italian immigrant's son from the back of a grocery store in South Jamaica allowing him to become the Governor of the State of New York. It could take an African-American boy from the Bronx and see him become head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It could take a poor boy growing up in Bed-Stuy in the 1950s and lead him to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 bank.
But that is yesterday's public education system. Today, we have two education systems if we want to tell the truth– one for the rich, and one for the poor. If you happen to be born in the wrong zip code and go to a failing public school, you can get left behind and never catch up. Public education that was the great equalizer in the society has become in some communities the great discriminator. Today's high-tech manufacturing economy demanding lifelong learning has squeezed the middle class and people feel left out and left behind and that is not all.
If the American dream of economic opportunity was a basic component in the compact defining America, than the second component was our justice system. And our justice system ensured the promise of fairness and security for all. Our national symbol of justice, Lady Justice, carries a sword a set of scales and she also wears a blindfolded. Why? To signify objectivity – that one's wealth, class, and race are irrelevant to the pursuit of justice.
But today, sadly too many people are questioning if the blindfold is still intact, or does the Justice system now see black and white or black or blue or rich or poor. The world saw an African American man in Staten Island die. And people are confused, disappointed and angry. Law enforcement officials have been wrongfully targeted and even assassinated. The situation has devolved into one in which everyone is talking but no one is listening.
It must stop. It is time for the truth.
The truth is the justice system does need review. The truth is there are troubling questions that have been raised that must be answered. The truth is police officers need do more safety and need more protection. The truth is law enforcement needs the respect of the community as much as the community needs to respect law enforcement. The truth is it is our obligation as leaders to provide the reforms necessary to ensure safety. This is a New York City issue, it is a Buffalo issue, it is a Ferguson issue, a Los Angeles issue, but it is also our responsibility to solve it here in the State of New York. That is a challenge we are up to.
Yesterday a gentleman congratulated me on my reelection and he said, "You know I wish you good luck governor," with a sort of sad face. I asked why is that? He said, "well you are going to govern in very troubled times," he told the truth and he was right. These are troubled times.
It is time to be bold my friends because there is no small solution to big problems. We can do all this that I have mentioned and we can do more. And we must.
When Americans questioning our economic system. When they are question whether or not they have economic mobility. When they are questioning whether or not their children are going to do better. When they are questioning whether our public education system is working for them. When they are questioning Our justice system and whether or not our justice system is fair. They are questioning the essence of everything we believed in, those are the primary democratic institutions of this country. That was the essential compact we made and that is what they are questioning.
And that is the challenge before us — to be fearless enough to admit the truth. To talk about these problems no matter how difficult because you will never solve a problem you are unwilling to admit and then we must act and we must perform and we must deliver results that answer these questions and right these wrongs and restore confidence in what America is all about and what New York is all about. We can do this. We will create economic opportunity for all. We can raise the minimum wage. We can create good jobs. We can get minority youth the training. We can use job training credits. We can create the best education system in the world. We can beat the bureaucracy. We can get results. We can make the changes that we need to make. We can get the resources that we need. And we can restore confidence and trust in the justice system both in perception and in reality.
Now you can say Governor, those are big challenges. Those are big challenges and I don't know if we can do it. Yes they are big challenges and yes they will be hard to accomplish. But my friends, that is what New Yorkers do. And that is what we have always done. We have always taken on the big challenges - taken them on first, gotten them done, and then created an example for the rest of the nation.
We started with the Erie Canal in 1812. Here in New York City you think New York City made New York City. No, the Erie Canal made New York City. Governor DeWitt Clinton had a dream. The question was who was going to open up access to the West. How could you get goods by water to the West? And Thomas Jefferson and Washington and Virginia were trying to dig a series of canals that would get you to the Mississippi and that would open the West. That would have made Virginia the main port. And DeWitt Clinton said "I have a great idea. We will use New York." And you could come up the Hudson River and you get to Albany and then you make a left and you go through the state and you come out in Buffalo and once you are in Buffalo, you are in the Great Lakes. And then you could go wherever you want to go. They said Governor one question, when you make the left at Buffalo – at Albany, how do you do get to Buffalo? He said no problem, we'll dig a canal. Dig a canal 524 miles. 1812, built that canal – no hydraulics; men, women and mules they dug that Erie Canal. It made New York what it was. They came through New York City to go up the Hudson River to get to the Erie Canal. When DeWitt Clinton started that project they wanted to impeach him because they thought he lost his mind. Literally, they said it can't be done. It's too ambitious. They did it. They did it on time, they did it on budget. It worked. It made New York State what New York State is and it accelerated the whole development of the United States. That's who we are. That's the stock we come from.
When they were talking about a dream of women's rights and women's suffrage, where did they go? They went to New York. And Elizabeth Cady Stanton said yes we can do this, and it is the New York women who came together and organized and got women the right to vote. When they stood up and said in the sixties, gays deserve equal rights, it was us at Stonewall who stood up and said that is right - gay people deserve equal rights. New York was there first. When a big state had to pass marriage equality because we were discriminating against gay people and not letting them marry was just another source of discrimination. And you needed a big state to stand up and pass it and it was hard, it was New York that passed marriage equality and it resonated all across the country.
After Sandy Hook when we saw the massacre and we saw the children killed and we said, enough is enough with this lunacy of guns, and you needed a big state to pass sensible gun control who did it? The State of New York did it. We did it first. That is who we are and that is what we come from.
Frederick Douglass once said, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress." We know that in New York nothing comes easy. None of the ones worth it come easy. If it comes easy you didn't need it in the first place and this is a uniquely New York moment. Because when things are at their worst, New Yorkers are at their best. And to any of those who have a question about our capacity just look at where we are today: the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, the high point of New York on the same site as the low point of New York at 9/11. Why? Because that's who we are. That's what this site says, that's what this building says. You knock us down, we get up twice as tall. You give us adversity, we turn it into opportunity. You try to divide us and we come back more unified and tighter than ever before. And that's what these challenges are asking us to do. To take that great diversity that is New York and to find the commonality and to come together for the good of New York.
And once again the emphasis is on we. We, as my father said so well, we are the family of New York, he called it, a collection of the most daring, bold, accepting people from every country on the globe. Every color, every creed is here in New York. Gay and straight, Upstate and Downstate working together to make our diversity a source of strength and not of weakness and to find our commonality all for the same mutual goal of making New York a better state.
We will do this and we will lead the nation by our example once again because this is New York and we are New Yorkers and this is what we do.
E.B. White said, "New York is to the nation what the white church spire is to the village. The visible symbol of aspiration and faith. The white plumes saying the way is up. That is New York. The symbol forward. The symbol that shows us the direction that is up."
Thank you and God bless you.