Governor Hochul Delivers Remarks at the Brooklyn Academy of Music 36th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:
What a great day it is here in Brooklyn, at one of the most incredible places on the planet. And this is a place to celebrate culture and everything that lifts our spirits up. So, I’m proud to be here at BAM once again, and to thank people like Coco Killingsworth, the true believers who always say that this is the place we can enrich people’s hearts and minds and their souls. So, I want to thank her as the President of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
And you just heard from one of the most incredible public servants our nation has ever seen and that is our Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, let’s give her a round of applause. And how blessed are we to have the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, our very own, Brooklyn’s own, Chuck Schumer, who you just heard from.
And you’re going to hear from our Borough President, Antonio Reynoso, and my great friend, new Council Member Crystal Hudson, and Hakeem Jeffries, who I served with in Congress. And I believe Eric Gonzalez is coming.
You’ve got an all-star cast for one reason, to celebrate and honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King and it’s happening right here, right now. And how do we do that? Yes, we come together year after year after year and talk about his life and what he did AS such a young person. He was just a teenager, practically, when he got so involved, 26 years old, when he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He also was a mere 34 years old, which at the time when I was little kid, I thought that sounded old, but that’s not old anymore – he planned the march on Washington as a 34-year-old young man. And he wrote some of history’s most powerful, poignant letters to leaders around the world to fight for a cause he believed into his core. And that is every man and woman and child is entitled to dignity and to equal rights and they should never, ever be denied. That was the cause of his lifetime.
He is truly one of the most remarkable, brilliant leaders of our nation’s history. And yes, I’m old enough to have been alive when he was alive. I checked out a book about his life when I was a child at the local library. I came from a big rambunctious family, my only escape was to go to the local library, all these loud of siblings. So, I went there, and I pulled out the book on the shelves and he was still alive at the time I did a book report on what he was all about and his story and how powerful it was.
So, when we got word as a young person, having gone to the march that fought for civil rights and equal justice and my own social justice-oriented family, the day he died, my family sat at the dinner table and held hands and we wept because we knew that this was a tremendous loss. And what it did at that time, it inspired me to realize that his work must carry on. All of us must carry on his work even decades later because the work is not finished, my friends, the work is far from finished. And that is what brings us here today, not just to read his words and think about his life and incredible contributions he made because he said every single one of us was ask ourselves daily, what are we doing for others?
Let’s answer that question. What are we doing for each other at this time when so many have been knocked down by this pandemic, we didn’t see this coming, but when it hit us nearly two years ago, two years, we’ve had to suffer under the clouds of this pandemic and COVID and Delta and Omicron. Please let it stop, God, let it stop, lift us up because what this did is it showed society’s cracks. It held up a mirror to injustices that have been there so long, because why did more Black men and women die from COVID than they should have? Why didn’t they not live in area with quality health care that would have lifted them up from that? Why are they still suffering not having homes at this time? Why are they the hardest ones to find jobs for? Because as I declare, when I signed a bill into law on December 23rd, my first batch of bills as Governor, I signed a bill introduced by Senator Kevin Parker and Assembly member Taylor Darling that declared that racism is a public health crisis today. Let’s call it what it is as a public health crisis.
And now I have Dr. Bassett, one of the extraordinary individuals who leads my Health Department, she is convening people together and saying, why are there healthcare deserts? Why are there disparities? We will get the answers, my friend, because Dr. King would have asked for us to do that.
So today I think about all the areas we have to do so much more and the rights that every child should have to have a great education. You heard from Senator Gillibrand, making education an essential right. And bringing our schools into an era when we finally revere them for what they do, they launch our children out into the world with great possibilities. Our education has to be funded and my budget tomorrow is going to have record spending on education because we’re going to invest in our children, just like Dr. King would have wanted to do, and we’re going to help with healthcare and housing and so many areas where we have a lot of work to do.
We’re also going to tackle issues and ask hard questions. Why are the maternal mortality rates so high for Black women? What is going on? Because that is a disgrace here in 2022, it should not be happening. Why are people still falling between the cracks? We’re going to get to this. And I want you to know, I have an incredible team of individuals and working together with our community leaders, our clergy, all of our elected officials, we will find the answers. So, when we look at that mountain top in the distance, the one that Dr. King spoke of, but never got there himself, I’m saying, my friends, let’s pack up. Let’s put on our hiking boots, get your backpacks ready, because we’re going to that mountain top together and we’ll leave this place, the place that Dr. King envisioned in 1968 when he called on us to think about the possibilities.
No, my friends, we will never give up. That is the calling of our lifetime, to continue living on his dream, but also making sure that we have a dream for everyone here. I called it not the American dream, that is the New York dream. This is a new era for New York. I declared it last week and you are all part of that journey. So, let’s head to the mountain top together. Let’s honor Dr. King and let’s live what he wanted us to do.
Thank you, my friends, thank you very much.