December 7, 2004

Thank you Carla Hayden for a magnificent event and for the magnificent job you do in running our renowned Library System.

Before I start I wanted to take a moment to recognize some people. At the 1999 inauguration we were reminded that: "If there is no wind, we must row." Along with the Cabinet members and all the hard-working men and women who make Baltimore city run, these people wasted no time in grabbing an oar - they probably needed one getting here today - and putting all their energy, time, and resources toward assisting us in Baltimore's comeback. We will be forever grateful to:

Cardinal Keeler
Reverend Frank Reid
Rabbi Neuberger
Imam Hassan Amin

Senators Mikulski and Sarbanes
Attorney General Joe Curran
Congressman Ben Cardin
Senator Nate McFadden and Delegate Salima Siler Marriott and the entire Baltimore City Delegation
Council President Sheila Dixon and the entire, soon-to-be-sworn, Baltimore City Council.
Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith
Howard County Executive Jim Robey
Comptroller Joan Pratt
Former Mayor Tommy D'Allesandro
Kweisi Mfume
And, of course, my ship would have surely gone under were it not for the patience, and love and loyalty of my family. Thank you Mom and Dad; Barb and Joe Curran; my beautiful Grace and Tara and William and Jack; and my sword and my shield, Katie.

Five years ago, on the day we recall the sacrifices at Pearl Harbor, our City recommitted itself to forging a stronger and better future for our children. In the years since that day, a new day of infamy - September 11th - has entered our nation's memory and our daily consciousness. And the people of Baltimore, once again, have risen to the challenge of our times, against the headwinds of great adversity.

In 1999, we saw clearly where we were. But we saw, just as clearly, where we could go. With trust in God and faith in the power of our neighbors, we chose to move forward together, knowing there is more that unites us than divides us. While we have not accomplished all that we envisioned, we have achieved more than many believed possible.

Though older, greyer and humbled by setbacks and tragedies, we gather today to declare that our work is not done. Our work is not done, because better isn't good enough.

We are taking responsibility - as individuals, and as a free, diverse, and creative people - for the future of our City. With belief in ourselves and in our neighbors, our work has brought forth hard-won progress: safer streets, new opportunities for our people, and the promise of a better future for our children.

Our progress is made by the man who spends an hour a day cleaning up his neighborhood - not because he threw the trash there, but because he chooses to pick it up.

Our progress is made by the woman, and her neighbors with Citizens on Patrol, who refuse to give up their neighborhood to drug dealers and their intimidation.

Our progress is made by the churches, mosques and synagogues that choose to mentor Baltimore's children and take stewardship over the parks and public places where children should play and seniors should gather.

Our progress is made by the thousands of volunteers and scores of businesses, who have rolled up their sleeves and made our classrooms and hallways cleaner, brighter places through the Believe in Our Schools campaign.

And our progress is made by our children in our classrooms - students who are improving their test scores faster than the Maryland State average - thousands of whom have personally promised me that they will not let us down.

Over the last five years, citizens in every neighborhood of our City have shown, through their action, faith, sacrifices and investments, that we are responsible for our city's future. Today, one chapter of our history ends; and today, a new one begins.

From his prison cell in the Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: "Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God… We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right."

My friends, we have used time creatively.

Together, we have made our city cleaner. Together, we have doubled drug treatment - helping twice as many of our courageous neighbors heal themselves. Together, with gratitude to the Baltimore police officers who gave their lives protecting ours, we have reduced crime by 40- percent. Home values are rising in neighborhoods across the city. We have $6 billion dollars in new investment. Our population loss has slowed, and we are poised for growth. And our first and second grade children, citywide, scored above the national average in reading and math for the first time in 30 years.

Nothing about our progress was inevitable. In a very real way, the responsible men and women of our City have all chosen to be willing "co-workers with God."

With openness and honesty, with trust and respect for one another, we have built a new foundation - beginning with public safety and committed to improving the quality of life for all. Now, we must continue this important work.

Continue working until that time when all of our young men grow up knowing more love than fear; and none of them dies in the senseless destruction of drugs and drug violence.

Continue working until all of our schools are centers of learning and excellence.

Continue working until our City is a place where all of our citizens have the opportunity to earn a decent living to support and nurture their family.

Continue working until all of our neighborhoods are safe and clean and look forward to the future - because in Baltimore, there is no such thing as a spare neighborhood, and there is no such thing as a spare American. Everyone is needed.

This Battle for Baltimore - this noble battle which we freely choose to wage - will not be carried for us by others. Nor is it a cause that can be won in these short years ahead. It is, nonetheless, a cause every bit as important to the conscience of our country as it is to the future of Baltimore's children.

At its core, on battle lines that stretch across our most challenged neighborhoods, it is the cause of freedom - freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom from oppression, freedom from bigotry, intolerance, and ignorance. And it is the cause of justice, and what we choose to make of it. Here. In our time, when our country needs us, in this place, in our place… in Baltimore, …the greatest City in America.
Revised: December 07, 2004