District 4 City Council Andrea Campbell was unanimously chosen as the Boston City Council president on New Year’s Day. Campbell is now the city council president in only her second term in office after being first elected to the council in 2015.
District 4 primarily includes Dorchester and Mattapan, as well parts of Roslindale and a small part of Jamaica Plain.
Below is Campbell’s inaugural speech given during the Boston City Council’s first meeting on New Year’s Day:
I want to welcome all of you — family, friends, and guests — to the Boston City Council chamber on this historic day in the city of Boston.
I am humbled and honored to be here, and to serve as your Boston City Council president.
I want to thank my colleagues. The progress we’ve made would not be possible without the commitment every member of this body has shown to achieving justice, providing equitable services in our diverse communities, and increasing opportunity for all our residents. I am extremely grateful to have your support and honored to serve as your council president. I look forward to supporting each of your goals, and continuing to highlight the important work this body does everyday.
I want to thank former President (Michelle) Wu for her tremendous leadership these last two years. Because of your leadership, this very council chamber is more accessible and brighter for the work ahead. For me, transparency and accessibility will continue to be guiding principles.
I want to welcome Councilor Lydia Edwards, Councilor Ed Flynn, and Councilor Kim Janey from Districts 1, 2 and 7 respectively. Because of your hard work, passion and dedication, you are here! I look forward to working with you and watching all of the incredible things you will accomplish for your constituents.
I want to thank our City Clerk Maureen Feeney and her staff, our council’s central staff, all the staff in my colleagues’ offices, and my own team. You all make us look good! I feel blessed to work in partnership with each of you. Thank you for choosing to serve and lending your expertise and talent to this great city.
I want to congratulate our Mayor, Mayor Martin J. Walsh on his second term. I look forward to working in partnership with you and your administration to continue to implement impactful policies that will lift up every resident and community in this city.
I want to thank all electeds in the room including members of our state and federal delegations. At this critical time in our political history, it is imperative that we stand together and work in partnership to ensure our residents feel safe, protected and continue to have access to services to meet their most pressing needs.
Our residents have placed their trust and hopes in us to do this work, and to do it well, with integrity and with courage. Thank you, residents, for believing in us, and for your engagement, your community leadership, and your ideas.
Last but certainly not least, I want to thank my family including my husband Matthew and son Alexander. Because of your love, I get to serve my God-given purpose everyday; because of your understanding and forgiveness, my mistakes are always opportunities to grow as a human being. Thank you love.
Today, we celebrate many firsts:
As the first African American woman to serve as Boston City Council president, I am especially humbled and proud to lead the most diverse council in this body’s history, with a historic six women of color.
The diversity of this body is one of its greatest strengths. Every single one of us, men and women alike, brings our own unique story to this role that fuels our passion for this work. I want to tell you a bit about my story, because it shows what is possible in the city of Boston — that a girl from a poor family in Roxbury and the South End can be standing on this stage, holding this gavel.
For me, this work has always been a calling and God-given purpose primarily discovered after the passing of my twin brother, Andre.
This month marks exactly six years since Andre passed.
He was 29 years old, and died while in the custody of the department of correction being held as a pre-trial detainee. Andre had a disease called scleroderma and as a result of receiving inadequate healthcare, he passed away.
His loss had a tremendous effect on me. I questioned: why am I here? what is my purpose?
How and why could two twins born and raised in the city of Boston have such different life outcomes?
We both were born here and educated in all Boston public schools. We both lost our biological mother at 8 months old. She died in a car accident going to visit our father who was in prison. We both didn’t meet our father until we were 8-years-old because he was incarcerated. During those first eight years, we bounced around living with family or in foster care. We would eventually go live with our father upon his release from prison. He would later and suddenly pass away when we were 19 years old.
In spite of all this, I was blessed to go to Princeton University and UCLA law school. Andre, on the other hand, often attended low performing schools and cycled in and out of the criminal justice system, ultimately facing an unfortunate death.
I could never have imagined that the council would be the platform not only to share his story but to work on policies that would ensure we do not continue to get these divergent life outcomes.
My story however is not merely one of divergent paths. It also speaks to the potential of this city to do better by the next generation. You see, my father was born and raised in Boston in 1933. He was considered a quote-unquote criminal. But my father was extremely intelligent. Having graduated from Boston Tech in 1951 he was accepted to Princeton University but instead of attending he chose a different path — one he hoped, as the eldest of seven, would allow him to provide for his family. Instead it led to long periods of incarceration.
My father shared a frustration that many people of color in this city have felt — that even if you work hard and do all the right things, you still are marginalized and relegated to low-wage jobs and poor housing stock in neighborhoods concentrated in poverty and with poor performing schools. And in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s that frustration was exacerbated by the fact that you were told explicitly this marginalization and exclusion was because of the color of your skin.
In spite of all that, my father (like so many mothers and fathers in this city), sought for his children to have more, to do better. So, although he never made it to Princeton, I did — by taking advantage of every opportunity this great city offered me: excellent public schools, after-school programming and job opportunities, mentors, and a strong church community. Opportunities that my brother, and far too many of his peers, were not afforded.
My story illustrates that a child’s life and potential is not pre-determined by the neighborhood or circumstances which she or he is born into, but by the opportunities we afford that child to dream and succeed. High-quality schools in every neighborhood; access to after school programming and jobs for our young people; safe, clean streets and parks; accessible, affordable transportation that connects every neighborhood; and affordable, sustainable housing for all who live and work here. Far too many feel that these are still out of reach, and that the status quo in Boston is not changing.
We now have to ask ourselves what do we want this city to be? What kind of city do we want for our children? For the generations to come?
We have the opportunity to bring hope and fairness into the equation for all Bostonians and to build a Boston in which intergenerational wealth-building opportunities are indeed accessible to every Bostonian; where all children benefit from educational opportunities that prepare them for post-secondary education and careers; and where no family or resident feels left out or left behind.
Our residents elected us because they want us to work together; to challenge the status quo; adopt bold policies and imagine the unimaginable.
Last term, this body and my colleagues, in partnership with the mayor, accomplished a lot. We generated millions of dollars for affordable housing, open space, and historic preservation with the passage of the Community Preservation Act; we made great strides to lower our city’s carbon footprint by passing Community Choice Energy and banning single-use plastic bags; we made investments in youth-serving organizations and passed protections for homeless students in our public schools; we increased opportunity for minority and women-owned businesses to do business with the city; and we resolved to be a sanctuary city for our most vulnerable residents.
As we move ahead, I am committed to elevating the ideas and experiences of residents who feel like they are not heard in City Hall; increasing the council’s transparency and accessibility, and tackling and discussing issues through a racial equity lens.
I am committed to exploring innovative tools and technologies for the council so that we can more efficiently deliver constituent services, and more effectively track and communicate our progress and achievements for our districts.
Over the next two years, we have an opportunity to address and solve many issues including those related to housing, education, public safety and to do so in partnership with the mayor, whose agenda includes the same.
An opportunity to breakdown ‘traditional’ geographic boundaries and engage across neighborhoods for solutions on common issues.
This new council is already doing creative work to revitalize committees to address consumer fraud and scams, small business development, and prepare for redistricting in 2020. As we do this work, we call upon our residents for their ideas and input. Every resident of this city, regardless of class, language, national origin, immigration status, or voter registration status, are valuable members of our community that can help shape our future.
As this body seeks to move our city forward, it is imperative that we work together recognizing we will not always agree; Let us draw on our differences and unique experiences to think and work creatively. Let us remember that we do this work because we are passionate and want this city to continue to be a pioneer.
Boston is and has been for centuries a city of firsts — we established and built the first public high school and first public elementary school; the first public park; the first subway system; the first African American meeting house; the first city police department; and the list goes on.
May we continue on a trajectory that keeps us first: the first to develop and implement innovative and creative policies that lifts the middle class and the poor; makes the vulnerable visible; and the unheard, heard. This is not a time for any of us to stand on the sideline. We all have a role to play.
God bless this great city and you. Now, let’s get to work.