Thomas M. Menino, Mayor of Boston Inaugural Address, Faneuil Hall
Remarks of Mayor Thomas M. Menino
Governor Cellucci, Senator Kennedy, state legislators, members of the City Council, friends and fellow residents of Boston:
Four years ago, Angela introduced me in this historic building as your newly elected Mayor.
Today, I return to Faneuil Hall four years older, a little grayer -- I hope a little wiser -- but still the same person I've always been. And I've never been more energized to lead the city I love.
I thank you for your confidence in me - and for the honor and privilege of being your Mayor for the next four years.
With safer streets and a strong economy, this is a time to feel good about our city. And it's a time to feel even better about our future.
I take great pride in having been introduced this morning by my daughter Susan, who is expecting her first child - our first grandchild - in March. (When I was Susan's age, I never thought a grandfather could look so young!) Any parent knows that there is no greater symbol of hope, of the future, of one's personal legacy than the birth of a child.
And so today, I want to speak about the Boston that our children and grandchildren will inherit. I want to speak about my hopes and dreams for this city - about our schools, our neighborhoods, our diversity -- about the things we're doing well, and a few things we could do better.
Before my neighborhood of Hyde Park became part of the city, the town's motto was Si tentas perfice, which translates, "Finish what you start." That applies especially well to my top priority - transforming the Boston Public Schools. I'm proud of the progress we've made. Now it's time to finish what we started.
Perfect example: computers in the classroom. Just two years ago, we had fewer than 1,000 computers in our schools. By the end of this month, we will have more than 7,000 - most of them wired to the Internet. That's great progress. And we never could have come this far without our partners - especially federal and state governments, business and labor leaders. So to all of you, I say a big thank you.
Computers make a real difference in preparing our kids for college and the job market. But we can't forget about the basics - teaching and learning.
Under the leadership of Superintendent Tom Payzant, we've launched the most ambitious school reform in Boston's history. Now in its second year of action, our five-year plan is taking hold in our schools. We've raised standards citywide. We've given tougher assessment tests. And we're already seeing results. Middle school test scores are up. And parents have never had more confidence in our elementary schools.
But I have to tell you - I am very concerned about our high schools. I'm not the kind of Mayor who sugarcoats a difficult challenge. So I tell you bluntly that our high schools need work - lots of work.
And the stakes are high. The Commonwealth has already raised the bar by requiring tests for all 4th, 8th and 10th graders beginning this year. But, if given this test today, half of our high school students would fail. And if 10th graders can't pass the test in 2001, they'll have only two years to do so or they simply won't graduate.
We have to start preparing our students for that test today. But the real test comes later - when they apply to college and apply for jobs. To get our students ready, we must raise the bar on ourselves -- on me, on the superintendent, on the School Committee, on principals, on teachers, and, yes, on parents. We have to change the way schools operate, teachers teach, and students learn.
Last September, we signed a new teachers contract. It holds the union accountable with us for dramatic improvements in our high schools. This is no time to settle for business-as-usual. So, to the schools, I say: your actions had better be ambitious.
Over the past two years, we've put a new principal or headmaster in one out of every five schools. And we'll change even more if that's what it takes. In other words, make the changes, or we will make them for you.
We know that our schools can operate differently. We know that they must. It takes innovation. It takes discipline. It takes teamwork. When it comes to our young people, I refuse to settle for anything less.
But we all know that learning does not just happen inside the classroom, during the six hours of the school day or the 180 days of the school year.
That is why I am proud to announce that we will expand library hours at 16 branches. From now on, every library in the system will be open on Saturdays - not just for kids, but for everyone.
It's also time to take a closer look at what we offer our kids during the week - after the final school bell.
Listen to the facts:
Two-thirds of Boston children come from single-parent families or families with both parents working outside the home. Only five percent of school children are enrolled in licensed after-school activities. And most incidents of teen violence occur between the hours of 2 and 6 p.m.
But it's a different story with kids who are engaged in quality after-school activities. They stay out of trouble. They're excited about learning. And they're developing skills to last a lifetime.
We have a responsibility to extend those opportunities to all of our young people. So today, I am announcing the Boston 2-to-6 Initiative. Its mission will be to offer quality, affordable after-school activity in every neighborhood to every child who wants it.
Boston 2-to-6 will achieve that goal in three ways:
FIRST: Over the next four years, we will serve an additional 3,000 young people. We will offer more tutoring, career counseling, recreation, and the arts. We expect this to cost about 5 million dollars. The City will do its share, but we need the support of our partners - not just those we've counted on in the past but also new partners.
SECOND: We will keep school buildings open in the afternoons and evenings -- not only for outstanding City programs but also for non-profits in dire need of space. We will pay for the overhead - heat, lights, and custodial services - so that first-rate providers like the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs can come into our schools and do what they do best.
And THIRD: I challenge the private sector to double the number of after-school jobs over the next two years - that's 1,000 new jobs. Business leaders have already helped us create a record number of summer jobs and build a nationally-recognized school-to-career program. Now we need you to step up once again - and create jobs for our young people that complement what they're learning in the classroom.
A skilled workforce will attract new business to Boston. But we must also create an environment ready for business - safe streets, clean neighborhoods, and a solid infrastructure. All across the city, we're proving that this formula works.
One year ago, I pledged to get consensus to build a new convention center. Now, in partnership with state government and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, we have done it. Ladies and gentlemen, the days of talking are over. The days of building have begun.
Look at Blue Hill Avenue. Four years ago, I promised to make Blue Hill Avenue a priority. Today, that 50 million-dollar investment is paying off - with new businesses, new jobs, and new hope. Look at South Boston - where our Main Street program has helped reduce retail vacancies by 75 percent in just two years. Look at Washington Street. The Combat Zone is a fading memory - replaced by a thriving Chinatown, with dynamic plans for Lafayette Place and Millennium Place.
From the South End to Dudley Square, we're breathing new life into one of the city's grand old boulevards.
What these success stories have in common is bold planning with attention to detail.
One hundred years ago, on the eve of this century, Boston set about building South Station to accommodate the growing number of commuters. Today, the challenge before us is not only the flow of people but the flow of information.
Soon, a new fiber optic network will help downtown businesses stay on the cutting edge. That network must also extend out to our neighborhoods - to police stations, schools, and business districts from Allston to Lower Mills. We have before us an opportunity to be known as America's number-one city in the Information Age.
Boston is celebrated for its historic character. It makes us stand out from all other cities in America. We have a duty to see that new additions to the city complement and protect the old. I promise you this: I will not sell our city's character to the highest bidder so they can build Manhattan-by-the-sea or high rises that cast a shadow over our neighborhoods.
When it comes to our city's future, we have a choice. We can settle for every proposal that comes down the pike. Or we can seek out the kind of development we want and make it part of our long-term plans.
A Mayor's job is not to dictate changes to the citizens, but to listen and to lead. Listening to your concerns has been the hallmark of my time in City Hall. And I will maintain that pledge as long as I hold this office.
As I look forward to the Boston my grandchild will inherit, I also look back to my grandparents, who came here from Italy many years ago. I think of them often as I travel around the city meeting Boston's new immigrants - families from Haiti, Russia, or Vietnam. Like my grandparents, they've come here in search of a better life for themselves and their children.
Last fall, Boston hosted the largest ceremony for new citizens in our city's history, as 5,000 immigrants became new Americans. To every one of those new Americans, I say, welcome. Our communities are made richer by your presence. Each of you has a unique story to tell. And each of you faces unique obstacles. I want our city to be known as a place that helps you overcome those obstacles.
Therefore, today, I am proud to create the Office of New Bostonians.
This office will help newcomers become productive members of our community. We will help you find legal assistance, job training, a solid education, and quality health care. We will expand our commitment to English-as-a-Second-Language. Most of all, we will find ways to foster and celebrate our diversity - to affirm the many cultures that strengthen the fabric of our city.
It's one thing to talk about diversity and equality. It's quite another to back that talk up with meaningful action.
We start by teaching respect in our schools and in our homes. We create opportunities in our board rooms and on our Main Streets. Most of all, we must work together to close the gaps that still exist between neighborhoods and between neighbors.
A city that faces up to its fears, embraces its challenges, and celebrates its differences is a city ready and willing to move forward.
Everything I've done as Mayor has one common denominator: making Boston a better place to live, work and raise a family - to see that the Boston I leave behind is better than the one I inherited four years ago.
Dream with me, for a moment, about the Boston our grandchildren will know:
Instead of the Central Artery's ugly green pilings, they will see a ribbon of green space through the heart of downtown, reconnected to the waterfront for the first time in 50 years. They will be able to stand at the Old State House and look down to Long Wharf and see water, as Bostonians did for centuries.
They will never know the South Boston Seaport as a sea of parking lots - but as a thriving new district that blends the best of the old and the new, with a Harborwalk stretching along the water's edge all the way from Charlestown to the Neponset River.
Our grandchildren will not remember a polluted Boston Harbor as the shame of the nation, but instead a blue jewel with clean water, beautiful beaches, and sailboats, cargo ships and cruise liners gliding past a new emerald necklace of Harbor Islands in the sea.
In East Boston, the old train tracks will be a long-ago chapter in the history of the glorious East Boston Greenway.
And in West Roxbury, the waste that was the Gardner Street Landfill will be a spectacular new park where families can relax along the Charles River.
The next generation may take these changes for granted. But for us, they are the opportunities of a lifetime - the chances to leave our mark on this great city.
If our grandchildren look beyond the physical space, they will see that our beauty runs deeper than buildings, boulevards, and ballfields. They will find beauty not only in how we look but also in what we do:
in giving our children a first-rate education,
in keeping our streets free of crime,
in building communities that celebrate the past while shaping the
I've talked to you this morning about some of the many reasons Boston has to be proud. I've talked about building excellence in our schools, confidence in our economy, and harmony in our neighborhoods.
But what makes me most proud to be your Mayor are the people of Boston. After all, you are the future of our city.
You are the young woman in Dorchester working hard to get into college. You are the immigrant in Mattapan who dreams of opening his own shop. You are the family in Jamaica Plain buying your first home. You are the senior citizen in Roslindale who feels safe in her apartment. You are the guests at the Long Island Shelter striving to make a new start.
You are the faces and voices of Boston - the reason I came into public life in the first place. I continue to draw strength and inspiration from your stories, your struggles, your dreams.
I will leave you this morning with the words of a 10-year-old boy from East Boston, a young man named Troy who wrote me this letter, which I keep by my desk.
"Thank you, Mr. Mayor. My neighborhood is a happy place
to live. There is no more litter and no more drugs. I have nice
people where I live. I have a clean park and a nice house. I
can play outside with my friends. I don't have much to say.
But thanks for it all. I like my neighborhood the way it is."
For me, there's no better proof that we're doing something right. But there's a lot more work to be done. And so -- for this child, for our grandchild, and for all of our children -- I ask each and every one of you to join me in making Boston an even better city.
Thank you very much.
Copyright City of Boston 1997