Mayor Kim Janey swearing-in ceremony speech
Good afternoon. Let me begin by expressing my deepest appreciation to Chief Justice Kimberly Budd and U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley. Both Chief Justice Budd and Congresswoman Pressley, are part of a long line of Black women in our city who have broken down barriers. Women called to lead, whether activism, like Melnea Cass, journalism like Sarah Ann Shaw and Liz Walker, or public service like Doris Bunte, Jean McGuire, and District Attorney Rachael Rollins. I stand on their shoulders today.
Chief Justice Budd, it is such an honor to have you administer the oath of office on this historic day. Throughout your career, you have been a pioneer and a steward of justice for all.
You have been a role model to me and so many, making history as the first Black woman to lead the supreme judicial court. Chief Justice Budd, thank you for your integrity, your excellence, and your service to our Commonwealth.
And I owe a debt of gratitude to my sister in-service, U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley. You are not only a friend, but you are my congresswoman.
I would not be here today, standing as mayor of the great City of Boston, if it were not for the glass ceilings that you have shattered not only as the first Black woman elected to the Boston City Council, but as the first Black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress.
From your years of service on the city council to your historic term in Congress, you have always been our representative.
Your advocacy is powerful and unapologetic. Your leadership is fierce and fearless.
Congresswoman Pressley, thank you for being here today.
To think, my teenage grandsons were born at a time when there had never even been a Black woman on our city council. Today, my six year old granddaughter Rosie,
and other little girls, can see themselves represented in Massachusetts’ highest court, the halls of congress and now in the 55th Mayor of Boston.
Today is a new day.
I stand before you as the first woman and the first Black mayor of Boston, the city that I love. I come to this day with a life experience that is different from the men who came before me.
I was born into a family with deep roots in the South End and six generations in Roxbury, the center of our great city. I come from a long line of proud educators, entrepreneurs, artists and advocates. I am grateful for my parents who raised me, my daughter who inspired me, my grandparents who prayed for me, my siblings who supported me, and my aunties, uncles and cousins who have always rooted for me. Thank you, all.
As a girl growing up in Boston, I was nurtured by a family who believed in me and surrounded by good neighbors who knew my name. It was my village. But, when I was just 11 years old, school busing rolled into my life. I was forced onto the front lines of the 1970s battle to desegregate Boston Public Schools. I had rocks and racial slurs thrown at my bus, for simply attending school while Black.
And just yesterday on my first full day as mayor, I visited my childhood alma mater. I saw students happy to be back in school with their teachers and friends, instead of the pain and trauma that I had experienced in middle school.
I grew up quickly, becoming a mother in high school. I cleaned bathrooms to afford Smith College and give my daughter everything she needed to succeed.
As I juggled it all, like so many others, I felt my first call to give back to this city I love. I volunteered for Mel King’s historic, grassroots campaign for mayor of Boston. Now, here I am.
Making history of my own.
My early experiences with community organizing inspired me as a young single mother to start working on behalf of all children, because I understood my own daughter’s experiences were interconnected with those of every other child across the city.
As part of Massachusetts Advocates for Children, I led efforts to make lasting policy reforms that promote equity and excellence in education for students in BPS. Working together with parents, students, educators, and administrators, we pushed to close opportunity and achievement gaps, so all children can thrive.
That work led me to the Boston City Council in 2018, when I became the first woman to represent District 7 – the heart of our city. I continued my fight for economic justice and civil rights and was elected by my peers to serve as City Council President.
And that, in turn, led to me taking the oath of office today as the 55th Mayor of the City of Boston.
To paraphrase Vice President Kamala Harris, every little girl watching today can see that Boston is a city of possibilities.
Today is truly a new day.
Sadly, today is a day many Bostonians didn’t live to see. Our hearts break for the lives that have been lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. We grieve with the loved ones left behind.
As I assume the responsibilities of Mayor of Boston, I promise to give you bold, courageous leadership.
Starting with an unrelenting focus to address the impacts of COVID-19. We must do a better job of making vaccines accessible, especially communities hardest hit.
As Mayor, I will partner with federal, state, and local community leaders to support increased testing and vaccinations across our city. I will fight to make it happen.
Our recovery must include working together on behalf of our children. That means safely reopening our schools and vaccinating our teachers. That also means investing in a summer of opportunities. I will partner with the superintendent to rally the business community, neighborhood groups and faith-based organizations to help our children recover academically and emotionally.
This issue is personal to me. As a young mother, I fought hard to ensure my daughter had access to a quality public education. I’ve worked for over 20 years to increase equity and excellence in education for all students in Boston Public Schools. Too many of our kids are hurt by an opportunity and achievement gap that limits their true potential.
The isolation that many students experienced during this pandemic has only made things worse. We must do everything in our power to support our teachers and ensure every student succeeds.
Let’s be clear - the problems laid bare by the pandemic were here well before COVID-19. The issues of affordable housing, fair wages, public transportation, and climate change are not new. What’s different is that these problems now impact even more of us.
But, I believe these challenges create an opportunity – an opportunity to come together, to heal and build a better, more equitable city.
I am humbled, and passionate about the possibilities for Boston, the city I love.
Our nation and our city are built on a promise that achieving your dreams is possible – regardless of race, religion, immigration status, income, gender identity, or who you love – but we have so much work to do to make those dreams real for everyone.
And we have to start by calling out the challenges facing our city openly, honestly and transparently.
Today in the City of Boston, we have an enormous wealth gap. The median net worth for Black families is just $8.
$8 is not an accident. It’s the product of discriminatory policies that we have all inherited. We need to call it out. And we need to implement new policies to address it.
Unemployment rates for residents of color spiked higher at the start of the pandemic. They continue to trend above other groups. Over the past year, the same communities hardest hit by the public health crisis have experienced the highest rates of housing and food insecurity. I will address these economic disparities with new urgency to reopen Boston’s economy with equity.
A recent disparity study showed the enormous inequality in our city contracts. Entrepreneurs of color who deserve a fair shot at doing business with the city are being shut out. This is unacceptable. As Mayor, I will take action to solve this problem with new creative solutions to boost city contracts with minority business enterprises and new strategies to hold ourselves accountable.
The time for action is now.
Dismantling systemic racism also includes reforming how we police our city. As City Council President, I advocated to address racial profiling, end excessive use of force, and ban the use of facial recognition software. As Mayor, I will continue to be an advocate and lead the implementation of these reforms. Together, working with our police department, I am determined to bring safety, healing and justice to all of our neighborhoods.
So, while today is a new day, while Boston has come so far, we also must acknowledge that we have so much more work to do.
That work starts now.
As we begin my administration, I want to pause and thank my incredible transition committee and staff for all you’ve done on behalf of the people of Boston.
I also want to congratulate the new U.S. Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh, on a much-deserved confirmation. Thank you for 7 years of service as Mayor of Boston. As a son of Dorchester, your achievement makes us all proud. Working people across our country could not have a more passionate advocate in Washington.
And to my cabinet and colleagues, all the talented and dedicated city employees who helped make this transition a success, you have my eternal thanks. I look forward to working together with you. It cannot be said enough, but the public servants who wake up every single day to make Boston work – especially during these challenging times – are owed a great debt of gratitude from all of us.
As we turn to the future, I am ready to lead our city toward recovery, reopening, and renewal. That means leading the way to a citywide economic recovery that is equitable – especially for the residents and small businesses hardest hit. Today, I am calling on business leaders, nonprofits, community groups, and those who have felt left out to join us in reopening and renewing every part of our city.
To the people of Boston I say, you have a stake in our city’s future – you are the essential part of this recovery. Let’s not be afraid to tackle the longer-term challenges that we face, together – from racial justice to environmental justice, from affordable housing to our transit system, from our public schools to public safety.
We can’t go back. Our only option is to go better.
Today is a new day for the City of Boston. As mayor, I promise to bring my life experiences
and my passion for making this city better for everyone, every day.
I promise to bring urgency to this job, and to strive to make positive change happen in every neighborhood in our city.
In my administration, there will always be a place for those who have felt left out of power, and I will also welcome those who have held power to join us in building a better future. I will work each day so that all residents have opportunities to learn, earn and thrive.
I vow to be a mayor for the entire city – for every neighborhood, and for you.
If we all work together, there is nothing Boston can’t accomplish.
Today is our new day. For my Rosie, and every little girl and little boy watching, let’s make it count.
Thank you and God bless the City of Boston!