Friday, May 24, 2024

Marc McGovern gives his inaugural speech as mayor Monday. (Photo: City of Cambridge)

I don’t need to tell you what a great city Cambridge is. We are doing things here that most other communities can’t even think about. We have a lot to be proud of. Yet despite our best efforts, despite being surrounded by world-class universities, being the innovation capital of the world and our AAA bond rating, we have far too many in our community who are not accessing the prosperity that surrounds us. Cambridge has a higher poverty rate then the state average. On any given night, upward of 500 people are in our shelters or on our streets. Death by overdose doubled from 2015 to 2016, and although we send many of our high school graduates to Ivy League universities, far too many find themselves out of school or not employed just a few years after graduation. So, although we need to take time to acknowledge and appreciate our accomplishments, of which there are many, we must never be complacent, because there are still far too many of our friends and neighbors who are struggling.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we move forward as a community, city staff, City Council and School Committee to meet these challenges. What I kept coming back to as an inspiration was something that may seem a bit strange.

When I was growing up, I had the pleasure of playing Cambridge Youth Soccer. I was on the same team with pretty much the same kids from the time I was 12 to 18. Our team was named Cambridge United. As a team, we were a true representation of the Cambridge community. We came from different neighborhoods. We were different races, cultures and religions. You were just as likely to hear plays called out in Spanish, Portuguese or Creole as you were in English. And although we were teenagers, we took great pride in putting on that uniform and what it represented – especially when we traveled to towns such as Needham, Wellesley and Lexington. We were proud of our diversity and our common goals. When I thought about what I wanted for us moving forward, that team name kept coming to mind: Cambridge United.

The name appeals to me because I believe there is much more that unites us as a community than divides us.

I believe we are united in our desire for Cambridge to be a diverse and affordable city. I believe we are united in our desire for every Cambridge Public School student to receive a world-class education. I believe we are united in our desire to ensure that every resident, regardless of legal status, age, race, sexual identity or ZIP code is safe in our community. And I know we are united in resisting and rejecting the racism, sexism and hatred that is plaguing our country.

Now, being united in our ultimate goals does not mean that we will always agree on how to achieve them – in fact, I can promise you that we won’t. Being united does not mean that we won’t get frustrated with each other from time to time; I can promise you that we will. Being united does not mean that individually or collectively we won’t make mistakes; I can promise you that we will do that as well.

But during those times of disagreement, frustration or mistake, let us not forget what binds us together as a community. Let us not forget that all of us – councillors, School Committee members, city administrators, city employees and community members – all care deeply about our city. We are all united in our desire for Cambridge to be a socially and economically just community for all who live here. That is how we are going to move forward. That is how we are going to reach our ultimate, shared goals.

This is the first time I have been sworn in without my grandmother here to see it. She passed away a year and a half ago at the age of 99.

When I think about the type of mayor I want to be, I think about my grandmother. She was respectful, but firm when necessary. She was smart, but knew that she didn’t have all the answers. She was grounded in her values, but always willing to listen to others.

That is what I pledge to you: To be respectful but firm; to approach issues intelligently but know enough to ask questions; to be true to my values of social and economic justice but be willing to listen to others.

To my colleagues on the City Council, I thank you for your faith in me. It is truly an honor to be elected by my colleagues. I believe this is a very special council. We’re special because we are a mix of new members with four or less years of service, who bring new energy, and we are also guided by the experience and wisdom of three members – councillors E. Denise Simmons, Tim Toomey and Craig Kelley – who have a combined total of 48 years on the council. I want to give a special thank you to Mayor Simmons, who led this city for the past two years through some challenging times, not the least of which was the horrible Berkshire Street fire that left so many homeless during the holidays. And her leadership in bringing the city together in the face of changes in Washington, which left many residents fearful for their future, was truly inspiring.

Thank you all again for the opportunity to serve as mayor for the city I love. I will not take your faith in me for granted, and I will work as hard as I can to be a mayor you can be proud of. Thank you.

Marc McGovern is mayor of Cambridge. He delivered this speech Monday at the 2018-19 City Council’s inaugural meeting.