Kathy Hochul Inaugurated as the First Woman Governor of New York State

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Her Inaugural Address:

Wow, this is extraordinary, so extraordinary. I’m almost speechless, but I’m really not, because you’ve got to sit down and relax. We’re going to be here for a few minutes because it took us a long time to get here.

And I’m still touched by the words of young Kayden Hern. You wonder how we found a Poet Laureate? Well, to find a Poet Laureate, you have to walk the streets of Harlem. I was outside the Apollo Theater, it was Amateur Night. I was checking it out, we were just giving them some money. And there’s a long line around the block, and I saw this young man standing there. I said, “You’re going in to watch somebody?” He goes, “No, I’m a poet. I’m going to go recite.”

Okay. So I said, “What’s your poem?” I figured he’d whip out a piece of paper and read it to me. He had memorized it. And he gave me a poem and I said, I stood there on the spot and I said, “If I win this election, you are my Poet Laureate and I want you here.” 

I want to recognize all the clergy for reminding us of the presence of God in our lives. And I listened closely to all their words, knowing that in my heart, I am stronger because of the influence of God in my life, and will continue to seek His counsel through the Bible as I guide the people of this state.

I also want to recognize the extraordinary leaders, and you heard many of them speak here. My God, we’re blessed in this state. We have the finest. To have, first of all, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate as our own Senator, Chuck Schumer. I thought maybe he was the Postmaster General, he delivers so much. Thank you. Thank you, Chuck.

We have a former Governor with us, David Patterson, thank you for being a source of great counsel to me, as only a few number know the struggles of this position, but you inspire me, David Patterson. The members of the New York Congressional Delegation — my former colleagues, Joe Morelle, Paul Tonko, Ritchie Torres and my former roommate, Carolyn Maloney. 

What can one say about Tish James? Well, Mama Dukes is our mother, we’re clearly sisters, and we are kindred sisters in the fight for justice. So proud to serve with you, my friend, Attorney General Tish James.

And a great person who embodies what a public servant really means, our great Comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, thank you for many years of service.

Our leaders in the Legislature, Speaker Carl Heastie, thank you my friend. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, thank you for all you do for our state. The members of the State Legislature, we’ve got a lot of work to do. Looking forward it, I really am. I’m energized. And I thank all of you for answering the call to service as well.

But I come out of local government, so I have to recognize some of my locals. I didn’t have a place as big as this when I was in local government, but the Mayor of New York is here. Mayor Eric Adams has joined us. And I thank you. Thank you for traveling here and being with us. 

Our District Attorneys, our Council Members, Mayor Adams, Mayor Walsh, Mayor Spano, Mayor Sheehan. And County Executives, and elected officials from all over the state.

I have to say I spoke to two of my leaders back home in Buffalo, spoke as I have every single day many times for the last week or so. Mayor Byron Brown and County Executive Mark Poloncarz truly wanted to be here, but they’ve endured a lot as well, and I want to thank them for being in the trenches together, as we battle the deadly storm.

Also to the members of the Judiciary, we look to you for leading our way, making the right decisions, and I’m proud of every one of you.

To the Girl Scouts, 4-H students, young students we saw in the video, thank you. And to the men and women of labor who are with us here today. 

People often ask how I get through this. You know, it’s kind of a rough and tumble job for a woman, isn’t it? I said, “I got steel running through my veins.” My daddy was a steelworker. My grandpa was a steelworker. My uncles were steelworkers. So I can handle this. Don’t worry about me. But I know how hard the men and women of labor work every single day, and you make us proud. 

But let me get to the people I spend the most time with, although not as often as I’d like these days. The love of my life, New York’s first-First Gentleman, Bill Hochul. He has endured my absences, and the stress, and I told him, “Stop reading the social media. Don’t read the blogs. Don’t read the news anymore.” Because as a family member, you feel it deeply, right? All of us, your family feels it almost deeper than we do because we ask for this. So to my husband who’s been with me since we were both Assembly interns.

To my parents who could not be here, we lost my mom a few years ago, she departed literally two months before I was nominated to be the Lieutenant Governor eight years ago, but I think of her every single day. And my father who couldn’t travel here, but I know he’s with us in spirit. And my entire family, sister Sheila, brothers who are here, nieces and nephews, and my Aunt Patricia who’s been working on campaigns with me since I was a kid. So to them, I’m grateful.

But two who’ve endured the most absence from their mother would be my children Will and Katie, who grew up with a mother who ran for office when they were preschoolers. Most mothers were not doing that at the time. And I dragged them knocking on doors and sometimes when they had to go to the bathroom, we had asked strangers if my kids could come in and we’ve got a lot of stories. So thank you for all the absences, but still supporting your mom no matter what.

And to your wonderful spouses, my own children, Christina, and Matt, who’ve encouraged me also from the very beginning.

And I think you all had a chance to hear from my granddaughter Sofia. She thinks I’m really small because all I can do is see her on FaceTime every day. So I think she was rather shocked to see that grandma was bigger than this. But she reminds me of our obligation to the next generation.

When we think about time, I think about two and a half centuries ago, George Clinton took this oath of office, the one that my husband just administered me on a Bible that was the family Bible of the Roosevelt family that went back to the 1600s. So we always reflect about history, but when Clinton was sworn in as Governor, I can tell you right now, not a soul in that place would’ve ever dreamed that a woman would take that same oath in this state.

And it’s been a journey. And after that, seventy years later, a group of bold and really audacious women, and a few enlightened men, there’s a lot of them around, like Frederick Douglass at the time. They gathered in Seneca Falls. Where’s Seneca Falls, how do you find it without GPS? This was hundreds of years ago. But people found their way to this place, the crossroads of New York. And they stood up and they fought and they said, “We’re sick and tired of this existence.” And they declared that all men and women are created equal. And they pursued the right to vote. Radical, radical concept at the time, the right to vote, women can’t vote. If you read all the arguments, they’re absurd.

But since then, New York women have been the trailblazers for the rest of our nation, where they overcame every barrier to push forward, despite all the odds. Names like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, whose statue is in my office. Harriet Tubman, whose life story I read when I was eight years old and I treasured it, the struggles this young woman did and ended up living in Auburn, New York for the last 50 years of her life. Susan B. Anthony, against the tides of her time from Rochester, going around the country, friends with Frederick Douglass.

And you heard Mama Dukes mention Shirley Chisholm. I was a young staffer on Capitol Hill. I knew Shirley Chisholm because she was actually buried in Buffalo. She fell in love with a man from Buffalo. I used to see her all the time. What an inspiration, standing up. Who would’ve thought a woman of color could run for President of the United States?

But then we have Hillary Clinton, another New Yorker. She has been an inspiration to me from the very beginning.

And then we think about the women who transformed the Supreme Court before it went in this direction. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. 

And as I mentioned, we live among legends like Dr. Hazel Dukes, who is still to this day, at 91 saying, “We still have that march toward justice. It’s not finished yet. We’re still working together.”

Each of the women I mentioned redefined leadership in their own way. And they paved the way for others to follow. And to be clear, it wasn’t just because they’re women that they made their mark. They embodied the courage and the character that still defines New Yorkers to this day. And above all, they were fighters. And now, as I stand before you, humbled by this honor, I’m ready to take on the fight.

To paraphrase one of our former governors, Teddy Roosevelt, “The people have now chosen a woman to be in the arena.” You’ve heard of the man in the arena. There’s now a woman in the arena. And that man and that woman are willing to be marred by dust and sweat and blood to strive valiantly and spend herself in a worthy cause.

As the sign says, I didn’t come here to make history. I came here to make a difference. And to pursue the worthy causes, pursue them together. And as your Governor, I’ll keep fighting for you every single day. And this is what I know about New Yorkers, just like the Lieutenant Governor, Lieutenant Governors do a lot of traveling. I know every corner of this state. New Yorkers are tough. They’re undeterred. They’re unafraid. We’re also innovators and creators. We can be optimists and realists, dreamers and doers. But above all, when we are united, there’s no stopping us. And there is no fight for what is right that we will ever back down from.

Now those of you who’ll gather with us in a little over a week, I’ll be presenting an ambitious State of the State, so I won’t go into policy today, save up for that one. It’ll even be longer.

But right now, there’s some fights we just have to take on. The affordability crisis in housing and energy and everything. It’s making life just too damn hard for New Yorkers.

And the gun violence epidemic, my gosh. The loss of lives goes on and on. 

The rise in hate crimes. What happened here? Especially antisemitism, Asian hate, anti LGBTQ hate and the systemic racism that still persists to this day. Those are the fights we are called to take on. We must.

And we’re still dealing with the lingering effects of the pandemic that disrupted every aspect of our lives. The loss of learning for our children, the loss of jobs for our workers, the tear in the social fabric that led to mental health challenges and increases in crime. We’re still reeling from all this. 

And while we’re doing it, we still have to fight back against the Supreme Court’s hostile assault on basic rights such as a woman to make decisions about her own body. We are in this fight. We’re in this fight to the end.

And just as we are reflecting on history today, when history looks back on our time, the question will be to all of us, in the present, the question will be whether we rose up to meet these challenges today and challenges yet unknown.

Whether we took the torch that was passed to us from those trailblazers and made it burn even brighter before we passed it off to the next generation. They’ll ask whether we advanced the causes of social justice and the progressive values that have set us apart from all the rest. Standing before you, I know the answer is yes.

Because obstacles don’t define us. Rather, it is the unparalleled courage and character of us that defines us as a people. So my confidence in the future is steeped in our glorious past – in the face of adversity, we always persist. We persevere, we prevail.

Think back when our young state needed to open up new markets. What’d they do? They achieved the most ambitious engineering feat in the history of our country by building the Erie Canal, creating Upstate and transforming New York City from a little village to an economic powerhouse.

And think about other challenges, when women around this country, as I said, faced oppression, the National Women’s Suffrage Movement was born right here, nowhere else but our state. And when events happened, like at Stonewall and the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, and the fight for civil rights came here, we took on those fights. We fought for those rights – LGBTQ rights, workers’ rights, civil rights. All of those causes found their national champions in one state – our state. No other state has that legacy.

You know, it was 20 years ago, the unspeakable terrorist attack, 9/11. They sought to divide us, take us down. You know what? New York rose up, became even stronger instead.

And just this year, we prayed for their souls, we experienced twin tragedies in my hometown of Buffalo. I see Senator Kennedy here. He knows what I’m talking about. Crystal Peoples-Stokes would’ve joined us, but she’s dealing with the aftermath as well.

First of all, we had a hate-filled domestic terrorist attack on my neighbors in Buffalo, simply out grocery shopping on a beautiful day. Afterward, we came together – the legislature, our leadership – and we passed the toughest gun laws in our country to say no more.

And just over the Christmas weekend, with the blizzard of the century, and we pray for their families, the souls we lost. But oh my gosh, we had heroic people. It was dangerous. It was so dangerous to be out there. I want to recognize the heroic first responders, law enforcement, and the ordinary citizens who helped the strangers in their time of need. And we are so honored to have some of the men and women who fought that blizzard here with us today. 

And one of them – they all have incredible stories – but one of them I want to highlight: protection specialist John Makin. He saved three stranded ambulances carrying sick people to the hospital that got stranded and could not move. He and a few good Samaritans also helped a doctor on his way to save lives, and his mother were trapped in a car. They didn’t know if they were going to hold on. He rescued them. He worked with another fireman and a citizen because Buffalo is truly the city of good neighbors. To John and everyone else who worked during that blizzard, please stand up and let’s give these heroes a round of applause.

State Police, National Guard, State Fire, all of our agencies pulled together and I’m so proud, so proud of what we did. New York State workers alone were responsible for 600 saves – saved the lives of 600 people.

But as we can see, every single time New York faces a travesty. We turn it into a source of strength, and growth, and advancement. And these are the times that confirm my undying belief in the people of New York, moving in one direction: Ever Upward.

Because New York stands for something extraordinary: Opportunity and ambition, compassion and tolerance, and the most fascinating people and places. Ultimately, a place where millions can come to, to build their lives, their families, live a good life. And that’s why I’m energized. I’m enthusiastic to be in this arena, no matter what comes our way. Because this is the New York I believe in, and the New York that I’ll fight for every day.

And here’s where we’re taking the fight next. First, we must – and will — make our state safer. This means New Yorkers can walk our streets and ride our subways, our kids can go to school, free from fear. And we’ll work together with our partners, our mayors, and get it done.

Secondly, we have to make our state more affordable. Yes, people want to be here. But the thought of not being able to have your grandkids grow up in the same community that they were raised in because they can’t afford it? That’s very sad. And New Yorkers are just struggling to pay rent, food and gas to get to their jobs. They’re hurting. Our people are hurting. We’re going to fight for them. And we must reverse the trend of people leaving our state in search of lower costs and opportunities elsewhere. We can do this.

And lastly, we must create opportunities for the people today, but also invest in a tomorrow so our young people, like our poet, Kayden, can have a better life.

And we’re going to keep opening the doors to communities and people who’ve historically not had opportunities. We’ll create economic empowerment so communities of color are no longer left behind and marginalized. We’ll make sure that our kids can thrive and have a first-rate education, so their future has unlimited possibilities.

And while so many states are sliding backwards when it comes to basic fundamental rights, New Yorkers will never have to worry about whether their rights are protected here in the state. Because the right to choose, the right of marriage, the right to vote, and the right to a life free from hatred and discrimination is basic to who we are. They’re all worth fighting for.

And as we protect our future generations and their rights, we’re going to continue to lead the nation in our ambitious plan to combat climate change and protect our environment. Because no place on Earth has more God-given natural treasures than New York.

Just look at these images of New York around us. From the grandeur of the high peaks in the North Country, to the Great Lakes, to the storied Hudson River and the Majesty of the Mighty Niagara, to the pristine beaches of Long Island. It’s beautiful.

So I’ll fight for all that, but as I said, most importantly, I’m here to fight for the people. Everyone, no matter where they came from, how they got here – to those whose ancestors came here in bondage on slave ships, and others who saw opportunity and saw New York as a shining beacon, drawing millions from every corner of the planet, just like my impoverished grandparents left Ireland as teenagers came through Ellis Island.

And because of that, we are home to the most diverse population – people of every color, creed, national origin and orientation call New York home. And for the next four years, our sole mission will be to lift up every New Yorker and make a difference in their lives, so their tomorrows will be better than their yesterdays.

My friends, let me close with a few final thoughts. I may be the one standing before you, but this day doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the New York men and women who take care of the rest of us – the nurses and doctors who saved our people during a pandemic, the home health care aides who allow us to age, and our parents to age, the teachers who are fighting so hard to get our kids back on track, and they’re always asked to do so much more than just be an educator. We honor them.

This day belongs to the waitresses. I’m a former waitress. I make really good chicken wings. The waitresses, the hotel workers, the union workers, and so many others. Sometimes they have to work a couple of jobs just so they can give their kids a hot meal, pay their bills during this cold winter.

And this day also belongs to our law enforcement and emergency responders who wake up every single day, set their alarm, go out into the world and they face the storms, the fires, the hurricanes, the flooding, the blizzards and all the other risks to themselves, just so we can be safe in our beds at night.

This day also belongs to the resilient farmers – my gosh, that’s a tough, tough business – all over the state of New York. Their food feeds the rest of us throughout this state.

And to our small businesses, the owners. I helped my mom start a small business a long time ago. I know the struggles. You put everything – you put your hopes and dreams into your business, and sometimes things like a pandemic just knock you back. They’re so resilient. We’re here to help them because they add the charm and the character and the personality to our downtowns.

And this day belongs to little girls and to young women who will grow up knowing that from this day forward, there are no barriers they can’t overcome. 

I remember one of my first days as Governor – very first days – I went back to the Erie County Fair. I’ve always gone to the Erie County Fair. A young mother came up to me with her little five-year-old daughter and she said, in this hushed voice, “Look sweetie, it’s a girl Governor.” And to which she said, I’ll never forget, “That means little girls can grow up to be whatever they want and so can you.” And that is true. That is true.

So as I approach the next four years with the energy and the sense of purpose and optimism, I know I’m not alone. For I’m joined in that arena with others who will fight the good fights and the worthy pursuits that Roosevelt spoke of. Let’s use these coming years to truly make a difference for each other and to make this state stronger than it’s ever been in our glorious history.

New York, just as you have put your faith in me, and I thank all the voters of New York, I also have faith in you. And to my very core, I believe there is nothing we cannot accomplish together, and so we will.

May God bless New York, may God bless the United States of America, and thank you New York.

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