GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT 2002: Mayor JUMP TO YOUR DISTRICT
 
 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Address to the United Nations

Thank you General Assembly President Jan Kavan for affording me this opportunity. And it's a particular pleasure to see Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Thank you General Assembly. It's an honor to address this session of the United Nations General Assembly. Had my father lived, seeing his son at this podium today would have been the high point of his life, and I know this is a proud day for my mother, sister, and daughters; they are as thrilled as he would have been.

Let me start by saying that, from my vantage point, New York City's relationship with the UN has never been better than it is today.

Of course, like all neighbors, we do have our friendly disagreements from time to time about local problems.

As a matter of fact: If you own the illegally parked black Lincoln town car with license plate number DPL 1-2-3-4, I'm sorry, it's about to be towed....

As mayor of the world's most cosmopolitan city, I have an appreciation for the complexity of the global issues you face daily. Before entering public service, I was immersed in international business.

Repeatedly, I've seen the transformation that's taken place -- as nations open themselves to new ideas, true freedom of expression, inclusion, and self-determination.

I agree with India's Amaratya Sen, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, who has said that "globalization is ultimately a major force for good, and can be a major force for prosperity in the world."

True, not everyone welcomes all of the changes that globalization creates. In fact, one of the great challenges of our time, is peacefully, and democratically, working out the difficult issues that confront a more inter-related and inter-dependent society.

Fortunately, for all of us, when internal politics leads to gross inhumanity - or when there are seemingly irreconcilable differences between countries - the UN is there, as an important place to debate and resolve differences and misunderstandings.

The United Nations has its headquarters here in New York City because the UN represents all the world's peoples -- and this city is the world's city.

Forty per cent of our population was born outside the United States.

This is the international capital of commerce - and also the international capital of humanitarian assistance, and human rights defense.

New York is a city where more than 120 languages are spoken, and every major religion is practiced - where the cuisine of every nation is relished, and the artistic expression of every culture displayed.

For all of these reasons - and more - I think New York is the perfect home for the United Nations. Soon, the UN will begin work on modernizing its facilities in New York - and our City government has already begun to help the UN make this historic renovation possible.

We are happy to make our home, your home. As our Latino community says, "Nuestra casa es su casa."

Unfortunately, our diversity and compassion -- the rainbow of colors, ideas and beliefs that we have here in America and New York -- threaten some.

September 11th showed just that. Fanaticism and intolerance are the ultimate defense of cowards. The terrorists who killed twenty-eight hundred human beings at the World Trade Center did so because of their own insecurities and weaknesses.

To the delegates of this organization - to your staff and guests - we pledge that this city will remain safe and open. As mayor, I'm committed to ensuring that New York is able to welcome and protect people from all over the world- even those whom we disagree with.

Especially those whom we disagree with . . .

. . . Because one of the fundamental rights of a free people, is the right to disagree.

Today, on behalf of all New Yorkers, I want to thank each of you for attending this session of the General Assembly... and also thank you for the support your people and governments have shown our city over the last year.

A few months ago, I had the privilege of welcoming the great Nelson Mandela to City Hall. Reflecting on the events of 9/11, he said, "Sometimes the sorrow of a great tragedy... brings out the true strength of a community."

The tragedy of 9/11 has brought out the true strength of the global community. We have received material donations and expressions of moral and emotional support from around the world- and we are more grateful than we can ever say.

And your attendance at this Assembly, powerfully expresses your solidarity with our city. Just by coming here, you have touched the hearts of the people of New York.

New Yorkers have always applauded the efforts of the UN to help nations ravaged by conflict rebuild their societies. We are humbled by your outpouring of support in our time of need.

One year ago - on one single morning - we suffered casualties and destruction on an appalling scale. We experienced the largest, single-day loss of life on these shores since our great civil war some one hundred and forty years ago.

The day before yesterday, at a moving, solemn ceremony, the names of the twenty-eight hundred people who perished here -- were read aloud. But if you watched that observance - if you listened to name after name - then you know that Americans were not the only victims on 9/11. Far from it. People from 92 countries lost their lives in our city that day as a result of terrorism.

But terrorism never achieves its intended goals- quite the opposite.

Terrorism here- in Israel- and wherever it strikes against a free society- galvanizes people to defend themselves-- and their freedoms.

And the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center -- in the international capital of New York -- united people around the world in grief and outrage.

Going forward, we must remember the lives that were lost...

We must remember how those lives were led....

But above all, we must remind future generations why those lives were taken.

What happened on 9/11 physically happened here, in New York City. But it was by no means just an attack on a geographical place. It was an attack on freedom-loving people everywhere . . . And that made it an attack on the principles of the UN.

Terrorism... violates the letter and the spirit of the United Nations Charter, which pledges its members to save the world from the scourge of war... to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, and the dignity and the worth of each man and woman.

In opposition to those values, the terrorists have declared war.

War on tolerance.

War on free intellectual and economic exchange across borders.

War on the belief that through that exchange, we can work together for a common and better future for all humanity.

War... on freedom itself.

Americans will defend the exercise of freedom here - and the survival of freedom everywhere.

Earlier this year, New York City was host to the World Economic Forum. We showed deftly how governments can protect the rights of those who want to speak at such gatherings-those who want to speak against them- and those who don't want to speak at all.

America was founded on the belief in open debate and dialogue...

... On the belief in looking adversaries in the eye, and forcefully expressing one's views, and listening fairly to others.... And sometimes, by agreeing to disagree-- peacefully.

Friend and foe alike should understand this as well: As a democracy, we engage in open debate on the best course our nation should pursue - particularly on matters that are of fundamental importance to us.

But debate should never be mistaken for division. Once we decide our course of action, our national resolve is firm, and our unity is unbreachable.

Freedom comes at a price - and tragically, sometimes that price is the commitment to defend freedom by arms. No matter how painful, America understands its obligations to its citizens, and the citizens of the world.

America has been, is, and always will be, willing to do its duty - to sacrifice even its own blood, so that people everywhere can live as individuals, responsible for their own destinies.

When terrorists make war on our fundamental rights -

When terrorists take the lives of innocents -

The United States will, without hesitation, defend our lives, homes and liberties.

As President Bush has said repeatedly, we will aggressively pursue terrorists wherever they seek refuge and terrorist states whenever they threaten our security. Your governments have an obligation to your citizens to do the same.

Let me leave you with one thought. In the words of Emma Lazarus that are inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, a "Golden Door" to generations of "huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

As a nation, we've opened that door to people from all corners of the earth for more than 200 years.

We understand the universal dream of wanting a better life. New York City is a monument to that dream. We draw our energy and vitality from the millions of people born elsewhere... who come to New York to start a business, raise a family, seek an education, better their fortunes- make a new life for their families and themselves.

Even in the aftermath of the terrible events of one year ago, we continue to welcome the world's strivers and dreamers. Every single day.

It's not only what makes this city great -- it defines who we are. And no one can ever destroy that.

To the terrorists of 9/11, and those who celebrate their crimes, the message we must send is simply this...

You may threaten us.

But you will not terrorize us.

You may attack us.

But you will not prevail.

You may seek lairs from which to launch your atrocities.

But you will not find refuge.

You may use our very freedoms to disguise your evil aims.

But you will not shake our faith in - or our commitment to - those freedoms.

You may try to destroy us.

But you will not succeed.

And as we defend our liberties, we also will rebuild and recover - not just from the physical damage of 9/11, or even the psychological scars. Our recovery will affirm the principles that inspired the creation of the United Nations.

New York City, like the United Nations, depends on free and open debate, on bringing people together so that we can learn to live in peace with one another.

We stand with all nations, united - to uphold the rights of people everywhere to "breathe free." We support your efforts, welcome you here, and pledge to work together for a better world.

Thank you.

Text of the address of Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered the United Nations, September 13, 2002.