Guest Op-Ed: Thank You, Boston

By Mayor Martin J. Walsh

On January 12, I held my final State of the City, which was broadcast live from Boston’s newest civic treasure, the completely rebuilt Roxbury branch of the Boston Public Library in Nubian Square. 

2020 was a tough year. 2021 is a year for healing as we keep each other safe; get through this final stretch of the pandemic; and build a recovery that moves all our neighborhoods forward. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have lost 1,077 Bostonians to COVID-19. They are loved and missed and their families are in my heart. COVID has affected all of us and it has hit some harder than others. Black, Latino, and immigrant communities faced the biggest impacts. Inequities in health, housing, and work opportunities caused more illness and job loss in these communities. Older Bostonians and those with disabilities face the highest risk and the most isolation. Most students have been out of classrooms since March, and families have struggled with childcare. 

While 2020 was a year of struggle, it was also a year that brought out the best in our city. We saw nurses, doctors, and medical staff gearing up and going into battle to save lives and provide comfort. We saw EMTs on the frontlines of a pandemic, helping over 4,000 COVID-19 patients. Firefighters brought recovery coaches to calls, to help those struggling with addiction. Police officers took 800 guns off the street, keeping us safe no matter the risk. Essential workers and City employees answered the call, day after day. Residents stepped up to help each other in a thousand different ways. The heroes are all around us.

As a City, we came together. We built a field hospital in five days. We created a Health Inequities Task Force to address health disparities across race and ethnicity. We’ve provided over six million meals to children, families, veterans, and seniors. We got 40,000 laptops to students. We got permanent rental vouchers to over 1,000 families with children at risk of homelessness. And, we created the Boston Resiliency Fund, providing over $30 million to help 250,000 households in need. And in 2020, despite the pandemic, we approved $8.5 billion of new investment in our city, creating a potential 35,000 new jobs. 

In 2021, we will continue that work. One of our next priorities is getting students safely back into Boston Public Schools. We will also continue to support small businesses, renters and homeowners, and those in recovery; push even further towards meeting our climate goals; and invest in Boston’s parks and civic spaces that give our residents more opportunities to come together, safely. 

We also need to address all the ways systemic racism hurts people in our city. The urgency of this work has never been more clear. Last summer, George Floyd’s murder sparked a long-overdue reckoning with racism. I thank Black Bostonians for the way you made your voices heard. And I thank everyone who joined the movement — Black, white, Latino, Asian, and indigenous peoples standing together. I’m asking all of us to accept this responsibility as our own and commit to fighting racism. It’s our deepest moral obligation – and it’s our greatest opportunity for growth.

We have tough days ahead of us. But we’ve been knocked down before, and we always get back up. In 2021, Boston will rise up again. We will leave no one behind, and our city will be stronger than ever.

As you might know, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have nominated me to be Labor Secretary in their administration. I have accepted this honor. If confirmed by the US Senate, I’m not going to Washington alone. I’m bringing Boston with me. This city is not just my hometown, it’s my heart. I believe in Boston. This is the city that welcomed my immigrant parents. This is the city that picked me up when I needed a second chance. This is the city where I fought side by side with you for marriage equality, immigrant rights, addiction treatment, criminal justice reform, education funding, and good middle-class jobs. 

Every minute of every day in this job, I spent listening to you, learning from you, working with you and working for you. I will never forget it, and I will forever be grateful.  We may be hurting now, but the state of our city is resilient; the state of our city is united; the state of our city is hopeful; and the state of our city is deep-down Boston strong. 

Boston, thank you. 

Mayor Martin Walsh is the current Mayor of Boston and has been nominated for President Joseph Biden’s cabinet as Secretary of Labor.

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