Yesterday, we celebrated a man who has given so much to the city we all love.
I would not be here if it were not for Mayor David Dinkins. That’s true for so many of us. I am tremendously grateful to him for the opportunity to work in his administration — it was an opportunity that literally changed the course of my life.
WHY you might ask? Well, one of the reasons was the way he modeled what it means to devote one’s life to public service. He worked hard. I couldn’t understand how he did it day after day after day. But he got so much done! And he provided New Yorkers with a powerful example of a leader who is strong AND compassionate.
He is also a man of great courage and persistence. Just imagine the obstacles he had to overcome to serve as New York City’s first – and so far, only – African American mayor. The pressure was enormous. The expectations? Impossibly high. And on top of that, he came into office at a divisive time, when tensions were flaring among many of New York’s communities, and it was a bad economy – so many people were struggling financially.
A lesser leader would have crumbled under those circumstances, but Mayor Dinkins didn’t let any of it get to him. Of course, he had a very patient, supportive and loving partner. He couldn’t have done it without Joyce! And his life, his military service, his experience in politics all taught him that change is always possible, as long as you’re willing to work hard enough to achieve it.
That’s what he did — and with such amazing grace. He was bold. His administration was more diverse than any that had preceded it. He spoke of all of us as New York’s “gorgeous mosaic,” as the city’s greatest strength. And he governed to lift up ALL New Yorkers, fighting for the people’s rights to safer streets, more affordable housing and better schools.
It shouldn’t have surprised anyone that he didn’t stop fighting when he left City Hall. He has battled for HIV/AIDS services, fought to save the lives and homes of elderly jazz and blues musicians, and of course, he continues to crusade for New York’s children — their health and their well-being.
That’s because he truly believes, as he often says, that “the children are our future.” I know he’s gone from carrying photos of the administration’s babies in his jacket pocket to carrying them on his cell phone, but the love and caring is still there. Not so long ago, he actually invited OUR children, Chiara and Dante, out for dinner to share his knowledge and wisdom, which meant a lot to them.
I could say I don’t know how he’s done so much in just 90 years. But it’s probably because he just doesn’t stop. I’ve been at events with him and he’ll lean over and ask “where you going next?” I’ll give him my answer but he always tops it. He always has more lined up than me on his dance card.
Mayor Dinkins is still going strong. While I can’t explain how he has remained so humble, kind, and compassionate throughout, I do know that our great city and many New Yorkers, especially me, owe a great deal to David Dinkins.
Columbia’s plan to construct a gymnasium in city-owned Morningside Park also touched off negative sentiment on campus and in the Harlem community. Opposition began in 1965 during the mayoral campaign of John Lindsay, who opposed the project. By 1967 community opposition had become more militant. One of the causes for dispute was the gym’s proposed design, which would have included access for residents of Harlem through a so-called “back door” to a dedicated community facility on its lower level.
The first protest occurred eight days before the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In response to the Columbia Administration’s attempts to suppress anti-IDA student protest on its campus, and Columbia’s plans for the Morningside Park gymnasium, Columbia SDS activists and the student activists who led Columbia’s Student Afro Society (SAS) held a second, confrontational demonstration on April 23, 1968. After the protesting Columbia and Barnardstudents were prevented from protesting inside Low Library by Columbia security guards, most of the student protesters marched down to the Columbia gymnasium construction site in Morningside Park, attempted to stop construction of the gymnasium and began to struggle with the New York City Police officers who were guarding the construction site.The NYPD arrested one protester at the gym site. Columbia SDS chairman Mark Rudd then led the protesting students from Morningside Park back to Columbia’s campus, where students took over Hamilton Hall, a building housing both classrooms and the offices of the Columbia College Administration.
View of a crowd watching militiamen preparing cannons to fire a salute in honor of the arrival of Japan’s first diplomatic mission to the United States in New York City, June 16, 1860. By Edward Anthony.