For Baltimore, `the opportunity to shine'


Dixon Inauguration

December 05, 2007

The following are excerpts from the prepared text of Mayor Sheila Dixon's inaugural address:

Sojourner Truth, a former slave who was once sold along with a herd of sheep for $100, felt compelled to respond to criticism that women were too weak and helpless to be given the right to vote.

Sojourner Truth declared: "If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again."

While Baltimore City isn't upside down, all is not as right as it should be.

But just as Sojourner Truth said then, there is considerable reason for optimism today, for these women together: Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Comptroller Joan Pratt, State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy, and I, the first woman to be elected mayor in our city's more than 200-year history, are ready, willing and able to right what's wrong, to uplift the fallen, and to build on our many strengths.

It took a long time for a woman to prevail and earn the right to represent this city and its people. Too long.

But it won't take me long to make the hard decisions and do the hard work necessary to make our city better, to ensure that all of our people, our most precious jewels, have the opportunity to shine as bright as their radiant potential. In fact, our work is well under way. ...

I want to highlight six initiatives that will help us to achieve these ambitious and important goals.

First, as mayor, I have no higher duty than to protect you from harm. To deliver that protection, we are implementing an aggressive, innovative public safety plan focused on building partnerships with federal and state law enforcement experts; increasing enforcement in targeted areas; and getting illegal guns off our streets.

Those involved with illegal guns need to hear this loud and clear: Baltimore is about to become the worst place in America for you to conduct your deadly business. ...

Second, a strong and stable family life is fundamental to the development of our young people. Healthy families teach children right from wrong, the importance of hard work, discipline, respect, responsibility and love.

But too many of our families are hurting, too many are struggling and even breaking, and the price our children pay for this is beyond calculation.

These suffering families are caught up in a destructive cycle. And it's a cycle we must break to start the healing. ...

Third, we are finalizing plans to dramatically expand our successful YouthWorks program. I have a simple goal: to ensure that every young person who wants a summer job gets a summer job. ...

To reach this goal, I will be asking Baltimore's business community to play an even bigger role. ...

Fourth, I have been so encouraged during this past year by how many residents and businesses have joined the effort to make our city cleaner and greener. We're making progress.

One of the most important next steps we can take is to strengthen our resolve to build the Red Line, a 12-mile east-west transit corridor connecting Woodlawn to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Campus. ...

Fifth, I am confident that we will find common ground next year and finalize the creation of a Land Bank that's responsible for, and capable of, efficiently acquiring, managing and selling abandoned properties, returning them to productive use. Too many Baltimore neighborhoods are plagued by problems associated with vacant, boarded-up properties. ...

And, finally, later this month, we will release the city's 10-year plan to end homelessness. ... This approach, called "Housing First," is founded on the premise that people stand the best chance of regaining self-confidence and control over their lives when they are living under their own roof. ...

These are but a few of my goals and ambitions.

In the weeks and months ahead, you will hear much more: more about our plan to reduce the property tax burden; more about our innovative partnership with Dr. Andres Alonso and the Baltimore City Public School Board to build and renovate community schools, raise academic standards and restore public trust in all of our schools; and, more about expanding opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses. ...

I had big dreams as a child. I dreamed of becoming a schoolteacher and traveling the world. By working hard, believing in a higher power, and drawing on the support of family and friends, I didn't just achieve my dreams. ... I exceeded them.

And so, as I made my way through life, I've had the opportunity to dream bigger and bolder dreams. As a result, I've realized a life of public service that I couldn't have imagined as a child. I helped break down a barrier for women in a way I couldn't have imagined.

Now we don't have to imagine.

I'm not done dreaming. But now, most of my dreams are for the children of our city. Together, we can realize these dreams, too.

The writer Marianne Williamson said: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, `Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be?"

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