Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Photo by Rex Allen Stucky
Today I addressed the National Press Club in Washington D.C. In my address, I challenged the next Presidential Administration to invest in solutions to the growing problems that threaten America's cities and metropolitan areas. Below is a copy of my full address:

Good afternoon. It is truly an honor to be here with you. Thank you for inviting me.

I am privileged to be the Mayor of the City of Miami.

A city built on the aspirations and dreams of so many who have come to America searching for freedom, searching for a better life.

It is what this country gave my family, and it is what this country has given me.

I came to the United States when I was 6 years old, on a freedom flight sitting on my mother’s lap -

We fled a place where the government denies its people the very freedoms and opportunities we take for granted.

We saw this country as so many others still do, as a beacon of hope, a land of boundless opportunity.

My mom and dad worked two to three jobs at any one time.

They cleaned toilets, parked cars, washed dishes - and yet, they never despaired.

They knew....that if you work hard, you can provide your children a better life.

We lived in a clean, safe neighborhood. I went to a public school and after school programs kept me out of trouble.

I worked as a school janitor making $1.10 an hour through the CETA program.

Student loans made it possible for me to attend college and earn a law degree.

At every turn of my life, especially in my youth, I benefited from a partnership.

Because government invested in me, I can now give back, as Mayor of Miami, and President of the US Conference of Mayors.

Not long ago, I spoke at a naturalization ceremony. I could not help but remember the day that I raised my right hand to swear allegiance to this great nation.

As I looked out at the crowd of over 3,000, from all corners of the world..........from every walk of life.........all eager to join this great American democracy,
I asked myself, do they see the same things in America that I saw all those years ago?

Is this country still willing to provide the tools necessary for advancement?

Is America still willing to invest in its people?

Does a six year old child today have the same access to opportunity that I did, or that any of us did?

This is a time when Washington has lost its values----- lost its principles - lost its sense of purpose -

It no longer invests in our cities, it no longer invests in our people.

Plain and simple, Washington has abandoned us.
While Washington engages in endless debate and partisan bickering - people throughout this country continue to suffer.

Cuts to education, cuts to housing, health, public safety, youth programs, economic development, job training, arts, infrastructure...

Government investment in our cities and in our people......... All cut.

When Washington does act, it is to clean up a mess that should have never happened in the first place. Washington plays catch-up.

Just look at the recent housing bill - a bill the current president threatened to veto - it is a fix for a problem that Mayors saw coming..........a problem that would not have spiraled out of control had those in Washington heard our cry for help…

Right now, solutions are not coming from Washington. Solutions are coming from our cities.

We drive the national economy.

92% of the nation’s economic growth -

86% of all jobs and 90% of income and our GDP.

Over 85% of Americans live in cities.

Cities are not the problem, cities are the solution.
While Washington sleeps, Mayors are working 24/7 to keep this country going

We address the issues that matter most to Americans.

Greg Nickels of Seattle on Climate Change, Mike Bloomberg of New York on Infrastructure, Tom Menino of Boston on Illegal Guns, Rich Daley of Chicago on Education, Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles on Poverty Reduction, and the list goes on...

We are the front line.......the last hope.......... That in cities......... Not all is lost.

We are the government of first resort - we accept that responsibility - but we should not have to be the government of last resort.

And so today, we face a moment of choice.

In November, we will go to the polls to elect the next president - the American people demand an accountable federal partner.

We are prepared to sit down and work with Senator Obama and Senator McCain.

Tomorrow, we begin our Mayor’s March for America.

Five forums, five cities, sixty days…Philadelphia, then New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami.

And why these forums? Why now?

We see violence increase in our cities. Today, there are more gang members in America than police officers. On the streets of Miami, an AK-47 is cheaper to buy than a play station.

Youth violence accounts for 20% of all violence and is the second leading cause of death among our youth - children are killing children.

Is crime a local problem or is it an American problem?

1 in every 6 children lives in poverty, with nearly half living in extreme poverty.

Over 60% of America’s children do not read or perform math at grade level and in our largest cities, over 50% of children do not make it past high school.
These numbers are much higher if you are Black or Latino.

Are poverty and economic opportunity a local problem or an American problem?

The American society of civil engineers grades our infrastructure at a D requiring a $1.6 trillion investment just to fix it.

A bridge collapse in Minneapolis, steam pipes explode in Manhattan, levies bust in New Orleans.....and these are not isolated incidents, they are symptoms of an underfunded national infrastructure.

Mothers and fathers spend 4 billion hours a year stuck in traffic, time they don’t spend with their children --
Over a third of our cities do not know where they will get their water from in the next 20 years.

Is investing in infrastructure a local problem or an American problem?

The US economy has lost nearly 450,000 jobs so far this year - wages remain flat - gasoline is now over $4 a gallon - rising food prices, rising medical costs - hitting each and every one of us in the wallet.

Is our economy a local problem or is it an American problem?

We import well over ½ of our oil, most from unfriendly governments, and the price continues to rise -

We face mounting evidence of a global environmental crisis - and in this century, the house where i live could very well end up under water.

Is preserving our environment a local problem or an American problem?

For the first time in our history, we are in real danger of failing to give our children a better world than the one our parents left us.

We are in danger of raising a forgotten generation.

This is not the America where I grew up.

These are not just Democrat or Republican problems, these are America’s problems.

Our five forums will focus on:

1. Crime and public safety to make our streets and neighborhoods safe for children and families.

2. Poverty reduction and economic opportunity so that we can financially empower all Americans.

3. Arts, culture, and tourism - stimulating an industry that creates jobs that cannot be outsourced - a generator of over 10 million jobs and $1 trillion in economic impact.

4. Infrastructure investment - to repair and rebuild our nation’s resources, with every billion invested generating over 47,000 jobs that cannot be outsourced.

5. And our environment - again generating millions of jobs that cannot be outsourced, preserving our nation and planet for generations to come.

These are investments that will add millions of jobs - trillions to the GDP - billions in personal income - billions in energy savings -

It is the best economic stimulus our nation could ever have.

How can the presidential candidates even begin to talk about an urban agenda without including our nation’s Mayors?

Are people stuck inside the beltway supposed to decide what is best for our nation’s cities?

You do not need to spend money on polls to figure out what the American people want - Mayors are on 24 hours, at the coffee shop, at the PTA meetings, at church and little league games -

We don’t need polls, we are the polls -

We know what Americans want, we know what Americans need.

We will present to the next president the urban agenda for his first 100 days.

The next president must understand that an investment in America’s cities, an investment in America’s people is an investment in America’s future.

That our next president should be the Mayor of the United States.

The stakes could not be higher. The status quo has not worked - we need a clean and historic break with the past.

While the 20th Century saw the end of European political and economic dominance, will the 21st Century see the end of American dominance?

World powers today compete for economic strength - the weapons are not nuclear or missiles, the weapons are information and currency.

China, Russia, India, Brazil, and others are gaining on us by investing in their people, investing in their cities, investing in their nations.
They are also buying us out -

In ten years, our foreign held debt has doubled and half of our debt is foreign owned -

Not surprisingly, China holds the greatest portion of our debt - $1.5 trillion - we ask them for money so we can buy oil from the Middle East -

Other countries have figured out that it is easier to buy us than to bomb us -

A recent report states that Moscow is the world’s most expensive city.

Our thirst for oil has put us on a path where we are engaged in the greatest transfer of wealth in human history - $700 billion a year - all going overseas.
Just think about what this money could be used for in American cities.

What will it take for our next president to realize he cannot afford, that we cannot afford to ignore the needs of Americans...?

After 9/11, the term “America’s Mayor” was coined - it meant reassuring all of us during tough times, providing hope that we can get through this -

Truth is, every day in America, in small towns and big cities, there are Mayors who earn this title - reassuring us that not all is lost, restoring pride, providing confidence, that we too will get through this.

And we do this because we know the opportunities this country still holds... The promise it stands for.

We do this because America is the only country in the world that inspires a dream.

A phrase that was coined in the early part of the last century during the great depression -a dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for all.

Mayors have never lost sight of that. The American people are yearning, they want to dream again...

Ours is a country founded on the belief in equality and self governance - we forge the path for the rest of the world - we build skyscrapers, eradicate disease, liberate continents, send men to the moon -

We are Americans - we have sacrificed before, and we must do it again -

There is no reason we cannot be greater than what we already are —

There is no reason we cannot overcome these challenges - seize this opportunity –

To leave cities where poverty is not a lifelong sentence, but a temporary condition to be overcome -
To leave cities that combine economic prosperity with environmental sustainability -

To leave cities where our children can receive the best education, afford a home, hold a good paying job, have access to the arts and live in clean and safe neighborhoods -

To leave cities where everyone has access to the promises of the dream -

This is what Mayors do - and this is what our next president must do.

So that our children and their children may inherit cities.........may inherit a country better than was left to us.

Thank you and God bless.