2014 Inaugural Address
January 2, 2014
(As written -- There may have been slight deviations in delivery)
I love this city!
Thank you for trusting me to continue in what I believe is the best job in America. To serve you is my greatest honor. I remain excited to go to work each and every day.
I congratulate our City Controller and our City Council Members. I know personally the duties they have assumed today, and I salute their service. Each one of us worked diligently, passionately, (some over a period of years) to achieve these positions. We recognize the sacred trust we have assumed. Whatever our differences in philosophy, in personality, in opinions, we will endeavor to reward your faith in us.
We are here today to affirm a contract with each other. A contract, in fact, that we on stage have formally sworn an oath to honor. Council will set policy for the city. They will gather the needs and wants, the problems and concerns of their constituents, and translate them into concrete policy goals.
As Mayor, I am the public face of our city. I celebrate the triumphs and articulate the pain. I calm protests and invite action.
I must have the big picture, knowing where our ship is sailing, the route we take, and the dangers we may face. I must be able to convey these to the dedicated men and women who make our city run, and to you, the Houstonians who depend upon our work, so that together we defeat the dangers as they come.
But the details matter as well, and the execution of our plans depends on the nearly 21,000 women and men of our city workforce who perform the complex choreography that is a city in motion. All cities have challenges, and sometimes fail to meet them, but we wouldn't be America's 4th largest city unless, day in and day out, our city team got the job done. Sometimes acting under great difficulties and real danger.
This last year we lost 4 of our own in a devastating fire that also left a 5th life shattered. This was the worst loss of life in the history of the Houston Fire Department. We continue to ask you to keep these families in your prayers.
Theirs was a sacrifice beyond measure, beyond understanding, but I ask you to also recognize the Solid Waste employee who cleans an illegal dumpsite by hand, the Public Works employee who repairs a plugged sewer line in the freezing rain, or the Houston Police officer who patrols our streets on Christmas Eve. We are a city that works because they work.
"What is the city but the people?" ~William Shakespeare, Coriolanus
Why do people gravitate to cities? Cities have people and possibilities. A city has been called a place where ideas can rub against each other, and perhaps strike a spark.
People come to cities seeking:
- Each other.
Houston provides all of this and more.
For all the reasons someone may have come here, I believe that there are shared values that make us Houstonians, wherever we were born, whatever our native language, however we came to be here.
My family taught me to accept responsibility. To live with integrity. To work hard. To finish a job begun. To contribute time, talent and treasure to my community.
Those are the same values on which Houston was founded, and the values that continue to shape our future. They are not unique to Houston. But here those values are wrapped in optimism that this is a city in which anything is achievable. Those values are shaped by men and women from every corner of the world who come believing it is possible for anyone to succeed here. And those values are imbedded in the shared truth that all are welcome in this most diverse of cites.
So let us look to the future:
Diversity by itself is chaos. Diversity where ideas meet and those seeds germinate can be a garden of plenty. To ensure the full participation of every Houstonian in the business and civic life of this great city, it is time to pass a comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the protections most Houstonians take for granted. It is time and we will do this.
Houston is a city in motion, an international city of energy and dreams, but dreams fueled by hard work and grounded in common sense. A city where grand ideas take hold if they relate to the basic competencies of the city. We like to do big things… together. We can always figure out a way to get it done. From creating America’s largest exporting port where once was only a muddy stream, to putting a human being on the moon, to opening our arms to embrace the Katrina evacuees, it has always been about doing big things.
We excel at emergency preparedness and storm response. But to protect the vast economic engine that sustains us, it is time for all of us in this region to come together and take concrete steps to create storm protections for our coastal communities, whether the Centennial Gate or the Ike Dike. It is time and we will do this.
Houston is a city that works, blessed with a booming economy. Of the 100 largest world economies, the Houston metro area is #32. We have a higher GDP that the state of Georgia. But not everyone benefits from the blessing of that strong economy. Two years ago I announced that we would tackle homelessness in ways never done before. Our success has been such that I say today that it is time for us to eliminate chronic homelessness. It is time and we will do this.
Houston is a city that invests in itself, so that business can flourish and families can build their lives. You cast important votes and created the initiative. You have been patient as we laid the foundation. We will rebuild Houston. It is time that you see real progress in the street and drainage system improvements we’ve promised. It is time and you will see them.
Each time I have stood before you, I asked for your prayers. I asked for your patience. And I asked for your perseverance. I ask this again, for all of us who serve you as your city workforce.
We rise or fall together. We succeed or fail together.
A great city imagines its own bright future—and sets about to make that happen.
Please join me as we create the future of Houston together.
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