I was privileged on New Year’s Day to hear Mayor Bloomberg deliver his inaugural address, advocating comprehensive immigration reform as a h
allmark of his next administration.
Making the event terrific was the fact that students from Newcomers High School, most of them no more than two or three years in the United States, introduced every speaker; each student proudly represented New York and spoke to what the City meant to them. Bloomberg himself c
alled for a bipartisan coalition to take on the ch allenging issue of immigration in a way that supports President Obama’s c all for “reform that honors our history, upholds our values, and promotes our economy.”
The Mayor reminded New Yorkers of what
all supporters of the Tenement Museum know: “No city on Earth—no city—should hold these principles higher aloft than this city of immigrants, because no city on earth has been more rewarded by immigrant labor, more renewed by immigrant ideas, more revitalized by immigrant culture, than the City of New York.”
For sure, this was a political speech. But I must confess that I continue to be moved by rhetoric that addresses “the ideals that have lit the lamp of liberty in our harbor for more than a century, and that continue to inspire the world!” That kind of rhetoric is what political leaders do when they are at their best. They help us imagine a world in which we can recommit ourselves to the best of our ideals.
Morris J. Vogel