Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Remarks at the ‘Hamburg Zeigt Haltung’ Rally

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OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: MAYOR DE BLASIO DELIVERS REMARKS AT THE “HAMBURG ZEIGT HALTUNG” RALLY

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you so much for the very warm welcome. It is an honor to be in Hamburg with you. I want to start by introducing my son, Dante.

[Applause]

He has been working this summer at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Berlin.

[Applause]

So I want to thank Germany for taking good care of my son.

[Applause]

I bring you today – even at this challenging moment – I bring you a message of unity and solidarity from the Big Apple, New York City.

[Applause]

And I bring greetings to – I love this title – the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.

[Applause]

And both cities – Hamburg and New York City – we have so much in common. We value freedom, we value an open society, a tolerant society.

[Applause]

We are cosmopolitan and we honor and respect diversity. [Applause] There is one difference I’ve noticed – New York City’s a lot quieter than Hamburg. [Laughter] Maybe that’s just the last few days. [Laughter] But I want to thank you – everyone here – because your presence makes a powerful statement. This – you know we have a phrase in America we like to use. We say – this is what democracy looks like. [Applause] People gathering together peacefully to make their views known, to make a better future. And no one here let the difficulties of the last few days stop you from being here as a symbol of the right kind of democracy – an inclusive democracy, an open democracy and a peaceful democracy. You embody that and I thank you. [Applause] And we have to remember no matter what challenges we face – the power of the people, the voices of the people when organized, when mobilized the right way make a huge difference. And I’ve got to tell you – since the election in our country, everyone knows there’s been strong, strong feelings in America. But you’ve seen them expressed in the largest peaceful protests in the history of the United States of America. [Applause] And a process of change is coming because of the voices of the people. And what you see when you turn on the television, when you look on the internet – it may look one way. But when you look to the grassroots, when you see what people are doing in cities and towns all over the United States, and obviously just like this, people in cities and towns here in Germany, all over Europe, all over the world, we’re creating a new world, here at the local level. We’re creating a world we believe in. [Applause] There’s a challenge because you can’t see that change emerging every single hour. It’s not easy to visualize sometimes the things that attract our attention or the moments of conflict, or when an election result isn’t the one we wanted. But the process of change is much deeper. It’s a current running so much deeper and it happens at the grassroots. [Applause] Now, my friends, I said to you – in our city, in New York City, we have seen more protests in the last few months than we can remember in quite a long time. And we’ve seen it all over the country. But I want to tell you something that’s amazing. We understand that in a democratic society all views have a right to be heard. Everyone gets to assemble peacefully. And we also give honor and thanks to those who protect us while we protest. We know our protest – our right to protest – is directly related to the fact that our police protect us, so help me by joining in applause and thanks for the police. [Applause] There have been some troubling moments these last few days, but there have also been great acts of bravery and restraint on the part of the police and many, many protesters who have shown solidarity with those there to protect them. Remember, our police are working men and women, too. We honor all working men and women, don’t we? [Applause] And we know that actual change, actual historic change comes from that steady and focused and passionate peaceful protest. In our nation we honor no one in our history more than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the great apostle of peaceful protests. [Applause]

And the changes that happened in America when we went from a nation that openly and legally discriminated against African-Americans to a nation that’s laws became fairer and juster. That did not happen because the President of the United States signed a piece of legislation. He signed the piece of legislation because of a grassroots movement that made him sign the piece of legislation.

[Applause]

That was the history of our civil rights movement. And we know there is so much more to do. There’s no one who can be more proud than me of the changes that have happened in our nation. And yet we have to always be honest – there’s so much more to do. There’s still so many barriers. There’s still so many challenges. But when you see change happen, it reminds you that there’s more change waiting to happen next.

[Applause]

So I’m here to commend all of you and to thank you because Germany took a great step for freedom and equality with the vote in Parliament for marriage equality. Congratulations.

[Applause]

And my friends, you know that may have not been the first choice of some politicians, but the people made it happen, didn’t they?

[Applause]

So we’ve seen over and over this lesson, but we have to learn it in each generation again and again. That’s a human reality. And what we know in a world where we see so many challenges and, honestly, so many times where we’re not satisfied by what happens at the level of the famous leaders and the national governments and the people honestly gathered for this summit. We have no illusions about the G20 and what it will produce.

It’s good when leaders of all nations get together, but that doesn’t mean they’re listening to us. We know that.

[Applause]

And so we – here in Hamburg, in New York City, in cities and towns across Germany, in cities and towns across America, and across the world – we create the change at the grassroots. We lead the way. How did marriage equality happen here or in the United States? It started city by city, town by town, state by state, and then it became the national reality.

[Applause]

And how will we stop the curse of climate change? We’ll stop it in Hamburg, we will stop it in New York City, and cities and towns all over the world. We will make the difference.

[Applause]

You know I’ve talked to many people here and I hear in their voices such a concern for my country. We are proud – all Americans are proud of the many good things we’ve done in the world. We know we have not been perfect by any stretch, but we’re proud to be leaders. And yet, I’ve heard from so many the fear of the future of America, the fear of the direction we might take. And I listen and I know that some people feel America is somehow broken. I’m here to say, as a very proud American, America is not broken. America is going through a process of change. America is seeking its truest identity and its identity in the end will be a progressive identity, an inclusive identity, a nation for all.

[Applause]

My nation isn’t broken, but my nation is going through an identity crisis. It’s true. But it’s on its way somewhere, and I know it’s somewhere good because I see what happens in the neighborhoods of my city. I see it in cities big and small all over America. I see the process of change under way. You know where all the controversy rages at the national level and all the negative rhetoric spews out of Washington, D.C. – what you see in towns big and small is people creating change. You see them head-on addressing the challenges. In Washington, a fear is often created of anyone who’s different – of immigrants, or Muslims, or people who have different views. But in cities and towns around America we understand we are all in this together. These are our fellow Americans, and we have a common destiny. And you understand that here in Hamburg. We can’t progress in division. And that’s why I have faith because in the end the common sense of everyday people – they understand division is ultimately a path backward. Now we have work to do, my friends. We have work to do.

[Applause]

And I implore you, I implore you to remain focused and hopeful no matter what the result of this summit, no matter what the challenges we face, and I’ll tell you why because our Earth depends on you – it’s as simple as this. Our Earth depends on you. We will never stop fighting for our Mother Earth, will we?

[Applause]

And we will never stop fighting against racism and xenophobia.

[Applause]

And we’ll never stop fighting for the dignity of working men and women. We will not have a world dominated by the one-percent, will we?

[Applause]

In your nation, and ours, and nations all over the world, we have seen a phenomenon lately that we must confront. The simple phrase that’s given to it is right-wing populism. I don’t like that phrase because I think there’s a good and progressive populism that we should be proud of, the right kind of populism, that listens to the voices of the people. But right-wing populism is a sad con game. It is an example of people taking advantage of honest fears and honest challenges that working people have. And we’ve seen it in our nation. So many people have gone through hard times economically and they’re confused. They’re searching for something better and sometimes they hear the wrong messages. Our job is not to give in to right-wing populism. Our job is to provide an answer to everyday people that’s better than right-wing populism.

[Applause]

When people have economic opportunity, when they have good education for their children, when they have housing they can afford, you don’t see right-wing populism there. When there’s actual opportunity and respect for all people, you don’t see right-wing populism there. We have to create a world where it cannot thrive. And I offer you, humbly, the example of New York City today because you know, despite all the rhetoric, let me tell you a simple fact about my city – my city is obviously one of the greatest examples of a city of immigrants anywhere in the world. And it is the safest it’s ever been, the strongest it’s ever been, and the most prosperous it’s ever been – together.

[Applause]

So when there’s economic inclusion, there can be unity and understanding. That’s what all of us have to foster.

And I will conclude with this – I want us to recognize something so fundamental. There are here in this city 20 famous people, 20 global leaders. We don’t agree with all of them, but we know their names. We hope they will do good and constructive things, but we know in the end, it’s really up to us. There are many more people right here and many more people who feel the same way that we have to make these changes in our world. I implore you to understand, each of you, the power you hold. There are so many messages we receive that tell us we don’t have power. There are so many images we see that cause us to be sad or depressed and tell us to stay home and not engage, and not vote, and not participate, but in fact the change comes from us. I am standing here, I am honored to be here not with the famous names, but with thousands of change agents.

[Applause]

Check your history and you will see over and over again the real changes, the big changes don’t happen from the top down, they happen from the people up, from the grassroots up.

[Applause]

So I’m honored to be with a group of authors of history, right here. Every name may not become famous, but you’re still the true authors of history. And I want to finish with a quote that inspires me because it reminds me to dig deeper. It reminds me that we’re still working on democracy. That’s the very nature of it. We still have to reach so many more people. Our job is to talk to people, to meet them in their workplaces, on the street corner, in the supermarket, and talk to them, and move them, and inspire them.

[Applause]

We don’t need less democracy, we need more democracy, my friends, deeper democracy.

[Applause]

And a great – a great man said it best – Willy Brandt.

[Applause]

He made the point so clearly when he said – Wir wollen mehr Demokratie wagen.

[Applause]

So all together, let’s dare more democracy.

Thank you.

Photo credit: @EricFPhillips

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