Happy New Year!
Transcript of Alex Morse’s Inaugural Address:
My fellow citizens of Holyoke:
I stand before you today grateful for the trust you have placed in me and humbled by the scale of the task before us. I’d like to express my undying gratitude, also, to my family and friends who have encouraged me every step of this journey.
Today marks a turning of the page on the old ways of doing politics in this city. It has been many years since Holyoke has stood at the threshold of such transformation; and I, as your mayor, am honored to help shape Holyoke’s future with you. The time for petty obstructions to progress is over. The time for waiting is past; the time for renewing our highest ideals and for remembering our better history is now. When I look at Holyoke today, I see what our Holyoke forebears saw when they created the Paper City of the World: a city of limitless possibility.
We have all heard those who say that Holyoke’s best days are long past. We have heard that Holyoke’s best bet is for us to just settle, and to resign ourselves to a future that is beneath our highest aspirations. For far too long, this narrative has pervaded this city and the morale of its people; too many have internalized these notions as true, as somehow inescapable realities of the Holyoke experience. As a result, many of Holyoke’s citizens have been disheartened and discouraged; too many have been overwhelmed by the frustration of seeing their best efforts and hopes for Holyoke fail to result in real, substantive progress.
Now, I understand the magnitude of the many challenges before us, and I am mindful of my own limitations to remedy them. But I also understand that the days of resignation are over. In November’s election, the citizens of Holyoke made their voices heard; and what those voices joined together to proclaim was that this election was – emphatically – about the future of the city of Holyoke. The voters rejected the gridlock and stagnation of the past. Today, we rededicate ourselves to the betterment of this community. We will not achieve every goal we desire in just one election or even one mayoral term. But I have no doubt that we will meet these challenges – boldly, fearlessly, and with the proud, fighting spirit that defines our people.
Throughout my time in this city, I have seen this spirit made manifest in the lives of ordinary citizens every day – people who often go unnoticed, but who contribute to our community in countless ways. And over the past year, as a candidate, seeing this spirit has never ceased to move me.
I saw it in the countless folks who stopped by headquarters, offering their help in myriad, small ways – people with their own busy lives who nonetheless sought to give support in whatever ways they could.
I saw it in the elderly man I met in the Flats – a man who could not speak a word of English, but who registered to vote for the first time in his life.
I saw it in the young kids – kids too young to even vote – who were enthused and impassioned about the capacity of our political process.
I saw it in a conversation I had with a woman in Elmwood Towers, in which she reminisced fondly about her days growing up in Holyoke, and who felt hopeful about the city’s future.
And I saw it in a young couple I met while door-knocking – a couple that had just moved in and that, despite the prevailing stigmas about their new hometown, were overwhelmed by the sense of community and belonging they had already begun to feel.
My experience on the campaign reaffirmed my deeply held belief that Holyoke’s greatest asset is, and has always been its people. And that Holyoke’s citizens reflect both diversity and a shared destiny, an overarching sense of common purpose. As I stand before you today, I do not shrink from the tasks before us because I know these folks and each and every one of you will be with me every step of the way.
Let us guarantee for our children the right to a sound education, one that will prepare them to compete in a 21st century economy and to contribute meaningfully to our society. I stand before you today because of the education I received in the Holyoke public schools. I am a product of Holyoke schools from pre-school through my graduation at Holyoke High. My experience taught me that it truly takes a village to raise a child. And that, had it not been for the people who took responsibility for my education, I would not be here today. It is time to restore that sense of responsibility. It is time for us to remember the common stake we have in one another, and that we must be responsible for all of Holyoke’s children, regardless of what they look like or what neighborhood they’re from. I know this is possible because I’ve lived it. And when I look at my parents here today, I know that they never would have imagined that their child would one day be their city’s mayor.
Next, let us lay the foundation for economic growth that can be sustained over the long-term and that gives our youth good reason to stay and work in Holyoke. Because, let’s be honest: what use will a good education be if our kids then find nowhere to work and contribute? Just as our predecessors saw in Holyoke everything they needed for the creation of the Paper City, I now see everything we need to become the Digital City, and for an economy based on art, innovation, and technology. The high tech computing center will be completed this year. And already, businesses are showing an interest in relocating to our community. For art and innovation, we need look no further than the talented folks already in this city, who need only be supported. Our people need a more conducive environment to create and imagine new ideas. It is time to eradicate the myth that people don’t want to work, and instead, give them good reason to work, by providing sound opportunities for the future.
Necessarily connected to fixing our education system and cultivating economic development is the task of keeping our streets safe. We know that if kids have productive things to do, and meaningful opportunities, we can prevent them from seeking their livelihoods in crime. Looking at community safety requires a holistic approach, and we all know that if we foster a sense of community and reinforce the stake we all have in one another’s lives, our city will be safer. But that requires time and the laying of firm foundations. Right now, we must begin to restore the relationship between our distinguished police officers and our communities. We must bolster neighborhood watch programs, increase bike and foot patrol, and provide common folks with a voice in providing recommendations to the police department. I will work very closely with both the fire department and the police department to make sure we come up with common sense approaches to keeping our people safe. Through these steps, I hope to rebrand Holyoke’s image and to make our city an appealing place for businesses and visitors.
As we do these things – improve education, foster economic development, and ensure public safety – let our guiding light be a love for this city. Let us remember that we all want what’s best for our hometown. And that in no other city in this nation are the people more considerate, generous, and compassionate. We hold values that are not subject to the changing winds of time; they endure and continue to define us. Our resilience. Our pride. Our concern for the plight of others. The belief that when hardship befalls one of us, it affects us all; that your child’s education matters just as much as somebody else’s child’s, or as much as my niece’s and nephew’s; that public safety in our downtown matters as much to residents of Ward Seven as it does to residents of Ward One. As Holyokers, we recognize that we cannot walk alone. I know there are many whose votes I have not yet earned; and that, despite our best efforts, we will not always agree with one another. But I also know that we don’t need to see eye-to-eye to walk hand-in-hand; and that we are never stronger than when we are united.
The work begins today. And we begin our work knowing that we are part of a process that is larger than ourselves, and that will continue long after we’re gone. Before us is the opportunity to shape this city’s future for generations to come. Let us seize this moment. Let this term be remembered as the time Holyoke began to make inroads in its longstanding challenges, and paved the way for a safer, more just, and decent community to unfold – one that is worthy of its proud citizens. Lest we forget, we are Holyoke. As long as we remember that, there is no way we can fail.
Thank you, Holyoke.