Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Attends and Delivers Remarks at 2016 Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Reception

May 11, 2016

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, good evening, everyone.

Audience: Good evening.

Mayor: Welcome to Gracie Mansion. Welcome to the people’s house. We are so happy to have so many people here with us to celebrate this evening – and it is a beautiful spring evening. This is the right moment for a celebration, and we’re so happy you all could be here to be a part of it.

This is a night when we celebrate a lot of triumphant history of the Asian and Pacific Islander community in this city – a history of achievement. You can clap for that.

[Applause]

A history of perseverance –

[Cheering]

– A history of families achieving a dream, and living a dream here in this city and in this country. And it’s something very worthy of celebrating – and we do that with a recognition that so many people here in this audience tonight have made a huge impact on the City of New York. And the communities you represent are such essential parts of the fabric of New York City today – that everyone who is represented here tonight, every community that is a part of tonight, reflects today’s New York, and the greatness of today’s New York, and all that it means for our future. So, it is a night that we get to feel really good about this city and where we’re going.

Now, we have some wonderful people with us behind me that I’d like to introduce to you, and they represent, also, so many parts of this wonderful city and all the different communities that came together to make us great over the decades. So, I’m going to introduce all of my colleagues in government who are behind me, here, in no particular order. I want to introduce Bill Chong, our Commissioner for Department of Youth and Community Development.

[Applause]

Carmelyn Malalis, the Chair of the Human Rights Commission.

[Applause]

Marco Carrión, the Commissioner of the Community Affairs Unit.

[Applause]

Joseph Ponte, Director of – I’m sorry – Commissioner of the Department of Corrections.

[Applause]

Michael Owh, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services.

[Applause]

Our CTO – our Chief Technology Officer for the City, Minerva Tantoco.

[Applause]

Carla Matero, our Director for Special Events.

[Applause]

Azi Khalili, Director of the Commission on Gender Equity.

[Applause]

And then I want to thank the elected officials who are here with us tonight – Councilmember Margaret Chin.

[Applause]

And Councilmember Peter Koo.

[Applause]

And we have the Permanent Representative here at the U.N. from Mongolia. We welcome the Permanent Representative, and the Council Generals of Pakistan, Australia, and Bangladesh. We welcome them all.

[Applause]

Now, I just want to give you a quick moment of history – if we were standing here in 1950, not long ago really – if we were here in 1950, we would be talking about an Asian community in this city only in the tens of thousands. We’d be talking about a community that really had not yet been recognized as one of the pillars of New York City. But fast forward to today – Asian-Americans make up over one million of the people of New York City.

[Applause]

One million-plus people. Now, I love – I don’t know about you – but I love to make comparisons with the West Coast.

[Laughter]

It’s an East Coast, West Coast kind of thing. And a lot of time when you compare with the West Coast, we win. So, I like to do this now. The Asian population of New York City today is larger than the Asian population of Los Angeles and the Asian population of San Francisco combined.

[Applause]

I think I’ll call both of those mayors later on and let them know we beat them. One of the fastest growing communities in this city – and a great example of New York values.

Now, I like to talk about New York values –

[Laughter]

There was a guy who was talking about New York values recently. He was very negative about it.

[Laughter]

But apparently he’s not in the presidential race anymore.

[Laughter]

That’s what happens when you say bad things about New York. But we are proud of New York values. New York values are compassion, inclusion, respect for all people, a belief that immigration makes us great – those are New York values.

[Applause]

And the story that we all know – the story of people who came here, struggled, did all they could for their children, for their families, and found a way to achieve great things – that is a value we cherish, that’s a story we cherish. So many of us know it from our families, and I think that’s part of what makes New York City great. It didn’t come easy, did it? It didn’t come easy, but it made us strong, and that’s part of what makes New York City so great.

Now, we know that part of how we keep to this legacy is to embrace all people, to offer a helping hand to the next generation, to help people who are struggling. This is what we believe in. This is what this administration believes in. Let’s live up to those values. Let’s honor to stories of each of our families by being there for the next generation. That’s why we have IDNYC in New York City.

We recognize with our own identification card, all our fellow New Yorkers, regardless of documentation status – they’re our neighbors.

[Applause]

That’s why we extended Paid Sick Leave to hundreds of thousands of more people so families could live better. That’s why we have Universal Pre-K – so all our children have an opportunity to be great.

[Applause]

So, that’s how we express our values.

Now, tonight, we think about all the communities that make this city great, but we also think about, in very personal terms, our own families, our own neighbors, the people in our lives who have done so much for this city.

And I have to tell you, we recognize there are some famous people that make New York City great who we’re proud of, who we know, who give us a sense of why this place is special. And there’s also a lot of everyday people who make New York City great. Everyone in this room has contributed to greatness in New York City. All the hard working people in every store we go into contribute to the greatness of this city.

There is a wonderful Chinese saying that’s so simple, but it speaks to this point. It says, “Every step leaves its print.” Everybody who is a part of the community of New York makes us something stronger and better, and we’re proud of that, and we believe that every single person does, but we also have the ability at the same time to recognize some people do outstanding things. Some people contribute in a very special manner.

And we have an honoree tonight that we want to hold up as an example of the greatness of New York, of the greatness of the Asian community, someone who has given back in so many ways. So, I’d like B. D. Wong to step forward.

[Applause]

You got a fan club here.

[Laughter]

B. D. is a very modest guy, but I told him he’s going to have to listen to some praise, and accept the fact that a lot of people deeply appreciate what he has done as an artist and as an activist.

Now, again, I’m going to get into my rivalry with the West Coast – he originally became an actor in San Francisco. I must admit that’s a fact. He became an actor in San Francisco, but he became an acting icon in New York City.

[Applause]

Some of you are lucky enough to see his [inaudible] in M. Butterfly on Broadway.

[Applause]

He won a Tony for that extraordinary performance. And he has continued since then all the way to this year for the roll he plays in TV’s Gotham.

[Applause]

An image of New York City I do not like one bit, by the way.

[Laughter]

Don’t let that happen here, B. D.

He has done so much work and so much of it runs through New York – produced in New York City’s theaters and sound stages, filmed on our streets. So, his success is a great New York story. And one absolutely extraordinary piece of that success is the 15 years that he played a key role in a little known show called Law and Order.

[Applause]

Law and Order SVU. If anyone wants to learn more about B. D.’s work and catch up with Law and Order, you just have to turn on your TV at any hour of the day. My daughter, B. D. – my daughter, Chiara, is very into Law and Order, and she made clear to me that she doesn’t even have to think about it, she just has to turn on the TV and it will be there.

He played in that role an FBI psychiatrist who was truly compassionate with a deep understanding of the challenges of mental health. And that compassion, that concern, that belief in helping other has played out in B. D.’s activism. He has been a stalwart leader in the fight for LGBT rights – and we thank you for your leadership, B. D.

[Applause]

So, we thank you for your cultural contributions, your civic contributions. And what could be better than having a proclamation – why, look, I happen to have one now.

[Laughter]

And B. D.’s done a lot, so there’s a lot of verbiage here. I’m not going to read it all. I’m going to get to the good part.

“Whereas B. D. Wong has enriched the cultural vitality of our great City, and serves as a tireless civil rights activist, helping all the people of New York City – I, Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, do hereby today proclaim May 11th” – is that right? May 11th? Yes, “May 11, 2016, B. D. Wong Day in the City of New York.”

[Applause]

Ladies and gentlemen, B.D. Wong.

pressoffice@cityhall.nyc.gov

(212) 788-2958