NEW YORK -The frigid weather couldn't keep hundreds of supporters and elected officials from attending the inauguration of New York City's 109th mayor, Bill de Blasio, Jan 1.
The air was filled with the joy of a new day for New York. People were greeting people with "happy new year" - something I haven't witnessed in this city since the civil rights movement, a time when unity in struggle brought change to America.
The opening speech by the world-renowned singer and social activist Harry Belafonte set the tone for the entire inauguration. He invoked the names of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Fanny Lou Hamer, Robert Kennedy and César Chavez as those who have inspired de Blasio.
The new mayor, Belafonte said, has a mandate from many who "for much too long have lived in despair, and can now believe again in the American dream, a dream filled with hope, opportunity and justice."
Everyone who attended received a memorial cup filled with hot cider and a program for the well-organized event. Staff guided us to our seats and supplied blankets to those in need.
Scott Stringer, newly elected comptroller, took the oath with his wife and two young children at his side: "This is a moment of transition for our city. Once again New Yorkers have come together with a new sense of resolve to tackle the great challenges of this time - Mayor de Blasio, thank you for being the voice for those who for too long have had none so they can afford to pursue their dreams, where aspirations and opportunity must walk hand in hand."
Joined by Mayor David Dinkins the city's first Black mayor, Leticia James, newly elected public advocate, took the oath of office. "I'm deeply honored and humbled to take this oath of office for the city's Public Advocate. Words cannot express my gratitude to those who gave their time to make this happen, they represent the bridge that carried me over."
While James took the center stage she held the hand of Dasani Coates, the little girl at the center of a recent New York Times series that moved so many New Yorkers to feel the pain of homeless families - many of whom are children - and who are invisible to too many of us who have the good fortune of having a job that pays a living wage and the good fortune to have a roof over our heads.
James gave a powerful speech. Please go to: www.youtube.com/watch?v=exRkOu6onX0 to view and here it in its entirety.
President Bill Clinton swore in the new Mayor and, as usual, was his articulate self. New York may be setting the path for the rest of the country he said and "with all do respect to the TV program, Modern Family" he gestured towards the de Blasio family and said, "This is what the modern family looks like."
Mayor de Blasio expressed his love for his family but said this city must give hope to all families, "Like it is for so many of you, my family is my rock. Their wisdom, their compassion and sense of humor make each day a gift to cherish.
"The spark that ignites us is to ensure that our unwavering resolve to do everything possible so that every child, regardless of what language they speak or neighborhood they call home, that every child has the chance to succeed; we are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love. And so, today, we commit to a new progressive direction for New York."
There wasn't much praise for the outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg and what was articulated came from former President Clinton, who said Bloomberg had left the city healthier and had made it a better place than it had been when he found it - an assessment much disputed by many New Yorkers.
Photo: President Bill Clinton swears in Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City while his wife, Chiralane McCray holds the Bible, and their children, Dante and Chiara, look on. AP/Frank Franklin II