Inaugural Address Of New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson

Mayor Bloomberg, Public Advocate Gotbaum, colleagues in government, family, friends and all New Yorkers, I am honored and humbled to stand before you today as New York's 42nd Comptroller, especially at this pivotal moment in our city's history.

I, like many of you, have watched with pride as New York has shown the world that no act of terrorism can compromise our democratic way of life or crush our stubborn spirit of optimism.

Time and time again we have been touched by the many quiet acts of compassion, heroism and humanity that bear witness to the tenacity and courage of the people of this city. New Yorkers never give up. Our strength flows from our diversity. Our differences provide a wealth of wisdom gathered from traditions and cultures from around the world, and we are better for it.

On this inauguration day, I am reminded of the words of Henry Clay, who noted in 1829 that "Government is a trust and the officers of the government are trustees, and both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people." At this time of transition and change, it is a particularly daunting task to make decisions that will affect the lives of New Yorkers. And so, it is with a sober understanding, that I accept such an awesome responsibility of leadership in this majestic city, a city of fearless people.

I know we will meet the challenges before us - indeed we will overcome them all. It is our tradition as Americans. We have survived hardship before. New York has suffered depression, fiscal instability, recession and now terrorism. But by your presence today, I know that you are as committed as I am, to holding onto our hope and our faith in an abiding future.

Yes, there are challenging times ahead for our city. But as we tackle the financial challenges before us, we should not abandon our values or our priorities. We must be mindful of not sacrificing our long-term health to meet short-term needs.

The noted economist John Maynard Keynes once said "The difficulty lies not in the new ideas but in escaping from the old ones." Today we must fearlessly embrace new solutions to problems, some of which were not even anticipated six months ago. We must seek out new and more creative ways of leveraging public and private partnerships for the common good.

As Comptroller, I will be a fiscal activist. I will not only work to safeguard our finances, but I stand firmly committed to overcoming the challenges Keynes described by creating new ways to invest in our neighborhoods. Working families and middle class families need affordable housing. Communities need the tools for real economic development and real job creation.

I am a native New Yorker, a son of this city, a graduate of its public schools. As president of the Board of Education, I had one goal - to help our children receive the same chance for a solid educational foundation that I received. We must join together to make that happen today, not tomorrow.

I am proud to be the first African-American ever elected to the position of comptroller in this city's history. It is a testament to New Yorkers that, when all is said and done, we put character first.

So, let us link arms in partnership, for the time has come for us to rebuild, to raise up new structures that will not only house our bodies, but nourish our souls and reflect our dreams.

There will rise an ever greater city that will fully understand the value of its diversity, and from this strength we will rebound and forge a new social contract that will unite this city and reinforce our place as a beacon of hope to the world.

Let us begin the new New York Renaissance today. Thank you and God bless you.

January 1, 2002

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