September 12, 2008
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today addressed the ServiceNation Summit, which brought together 500 leaders from a wide cross-section of American life to celebrate the power and potential of citizen service and to address America's greatest social challenges through volunteer and national service. In his remarks, Mayor Bloomberg announced a new partnership between New York City's environmental education campaign, GreeNYC and the non-profit organizations Children for Children and RelightNY, designed to encourage tens of thousands of young people to relight New York City with compact fluorescent light bulbs that will cut reliance on fossil fuels and reduce production of greenhouse gases.
The Mayor was introduced by Laurie Tisch, President of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund and the Mayor introduced a video of President George W. Bush, then introduced First Lady Laura Bush.
Mayor Bloomberg's remarks as delivered:
"Laurie, thank you for those kind words. I should have been embarrassed but I loved hearing every minute of it.
"It wasn't all quite true. For a start, the biggest accomplishment of our administration is the improvement of the New York City public school system and having that be a role model for how to fix public schools throughout this country. But the Chancellor, Joel Klein, and Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott and all of the 120,000 people that work in the Department of Education, they did the work and they deserve your round of applause.
"I have known Laurie Tisch for more years than she would care to admit to. We don't call each other old friends, we call each other friends of long duration.
"But she comes from a family of public servants and her late father, her mother, her uncle and aunt, her cousins and her two brothers are all great role models for all of us. The Tisch family really has been there from when they started, I think, with a little hotel in Lakewood, New Jersey. They built an empire but they didn't take, they gave back and they continue to do that. And so, Laurie, we really stand here in awe of you rather than the reverse. Thank you very much.
"Greg, or Vartan Gregorian, for those of you who aren't close as I am, and Rick Stengel have really done a great job of publicizing this event. Rick Stengel in the pages of Time magazine and on the website. But I will admit it - and I know you're all going to eat your hearts out - this morning, before this, I was on the Today Show with Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer, thank you very much, publicizing this event.
"Growing up I didn't ever think that I would be on the Today Show, although I don't think when I grew up the Today Show existed.
"Anyway, let me simply say our city is privileged, really, to host this ServiceNation Summit. It's an idea who I think's time has truly come and when - where better to launch it than in New York City because the city is the city of service. New York is the birthplace of the philosopher William James, who, 102 years ago, made the pioneering argument for wide scale, voluntary national service in his essay, 'The Moral Equivalent of War.'
"New York is where volunteers from the corporate sector - including, I'm proud to say, the company I founded, Bloomberg LP - donate countless hours to good causes and really are the hearts of corporate America and corporate world. Lots of companies have started to understand that they have an obligation to help the societies where they do their business and make their money.
"New York is where 'City Year,' the organization started 20 years ago by Alan Khazei - is one of the true founding fathers of ServiceNation and he's inspired thousands of young people to put their idealism to work in our city classrooms, and on our city streets.
"And New York is where, every year, the Mayor's Volunteer Center links tens of thousands of New Yorkers to opportunities to serve, from volunteering in soup kitchens to tutoring youngsters after school. A lot of people always come up to me and say, 'Well I want to do something, how can I do it?' And most of us don't have the right connections, don't know quite where to go but if you call 311, we will be happy to connect you to a whole group of people who know where you should go and know how you can get involved and how you can make a difference. And it really has done a lot for the city to put together those who have the ability and the time to help with those who really need it.
"Now, service isn't just a New York idea. It is certainly an American one. And when Americans see a problem, we join hands to solve it. When disasters strike anywhere, we rush to help. As you saw in the video, America and, in all fairness, people from around the world, came to New York to help us and New Yorkers will never forget how much America and the world did after 9/11 for people that were hurt here. I'm happy to say that I think New Yorkers also feel that they have an obligation to help others and we, for example, had lots of people from the Fire Department, Police Department, Office of Emergency Management, down in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately they were not needed. Galveston looks like it's going to get hammered; you can rest assured that New Yorkers from the City workforce and from the private sector will be there and that we will send whatever equipment we can to help.
"Now, this spirit of service is something that this summit really is about enlarging. And I will say, when you want to talk about volunteerism, America needs us and I can't think of any group that comes right to my mind than these three million young men and women who are serving in our volunteer armed services.
"And it's their commitment that the rest of us, I think, probably have difficulty in quite understanding. It is not only full time, they are putting their lives at risk. As we all know, sadly, too many of our young men and women for the last 235 years have paid the ultimate price but we are a great beneficiaries of that service to our nation. And our hearts go out to those families who have lost loved ones and our admiration for those who are serving.
"We also have plenty of needs at home here, and there are millions of fellow Americans who we can help - economically struggling Americans who are more reliant on food services than ever before, young Americans on whose education the fate of our nation hinges.
"And we have to work on things that will help all over the world. Global warming is as good an example of something as I can come up. We are polluting the air that we breathe and we are destroying our planet and we have to get together and stop that. And I'm happy to say that a lot of the service that you'll see, you'll hear talked about at this summit has to do with addressing that issue.
"In New York we're doing our bit. We've mobilized volunteers to plant one million trees across our city, which will and has reduced our output of greenhouse gases. A million trees takes money. We got a wonderful gift, $5 million from David Rockefeller, who wanted to do something for this city. And I'll never forget the look on his face as he and I stood there at a public housing project where we planted a tree. And I thought to myself, what a crazy world this is; what a wonderful country. Here Michael Bloomberg is standing with David Rockefeller planting a tree in a public housing project to make everybody in this city better. It tells you everything you need to know about America. And then we got a million dollars from Sting and his band, The Police, to plant trees.
"I got a chance to go backstage at his concert to say thank you personally for his gift. The breadth of the people that want to make a difference is quite astounding. We are also following the trail blazed by a remarkable high school student in our city: Avery Hairston. Avery, you are sitting at table eight. Where are you? Stand up, Avery. There you are.
"I had a chance to meet Avery and his mother earlier. He and his classmates decided that rather than just worrying about global warming, they would actually do something about it. And so two years ago, they founded an organization called 'RelightNY.' And its goal, one that I happen to agree with one hundred percent, replacing every light bulb in New York City with a compact fluorescent light bulb. These long-lasting 'CFL' bulbs cut our reliance on fossil fuels and reduce production of greenhouse gases. And, with private donations, RelightNY has already purchased 30,000 CFLs, and distributed them at subsidized and public housing developments.
"Because of that, New Yorkers on limited resources are saving on their electric bills and they are helping save our planet at the same time. Avery: We've begun going to CFLs in City government ourselves - City Hall is all converted and I think most of the Department of Education main building is. I can tell you my house is. And you really do make a difference. You will do something where people can, in these tough times, reduce their energy bills and also help the climate.
"On September 27th - the 'ServiceNation Day of Action' called for by this summit - young people in our city will distribute another 30,000 CFLs in their communities donated by RelightNY. So once again, Avery, thank you very much.
"Today I'm announcing a new partnership between the City's environmental education campaign, GreeNYC and the non-profit organization 'Children for Children' and RelightNY. And, working together with more than 500 schools, after-school programs, and community groups, we'll encourage tens of thousands more young people to keep relighting our city. So that's the way we're going to have a better future and I think it highlights the difference between people just talking about it and people actually doing something about it. Avery, you're a role model for all of us so thank you.
"Let me finish by saying in our democracy, I think that service should be asked of everyone, and also should be open to everyone.
"To help make that happen, we're creating new 'service learning' opportunities for students in low-income communities. And those youngsters have proved you don't have to be privileged to share the privilege of working for the common good.
"Ten students in Brooklyn showed that in June. They raised money from their own hard-pressed neighbors, paid their way to New Orleans, and helped rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. I was down there, I've visited New Orleans a few times now and if you ever saw a place that really needed help from the rest of this country, places like the Lower Ninth in New Orleans really are good examples of that.
"But you can find examples all over this country. No matter how lucky we are in this city to have a city where the economy is fundamentally pretty good, democracy and capitalism can't help everyone and it is up to us to make sure that those who haven't lucked out get the benefit of the great American dream.
"I think this bears out, seriously, the wisdom of St. Francis, who said that it in giving that we receive. I have said it a thousand times that every dollar that I have given away, I have gotten more than that back in satisfaction. And I think my two daughters have inherited that belief and that hopefully they will carry it on long after I am gone.
"We are New Yorkers, we are a day after the seventh anniversary of 9/11. We remember the strength that we took from the compassion and resolve of the President of the United States. We also applaud his leadership in calling on Americans to embrace a culture of service. You're going to hear a special video message from him in a couple of seconds, after which we are going to be privileged to be joined by a woman who really has shown firsthand that spirit of service and the compassionate face of America to people across our nation and around the world.
"Her extraordinary work merits our deepest appreciation and warm applause. And I, really, over the years have been lucky enough to get to know her and have great admiration of the First Lady of the United States, Laura Bush, and she's going to come on right after the video. So enjoy yourselves. You can make a difference, you are making a difference but we do have a long way to go. And go get 'em. Thank you.