My experiences in Newark have been clear. When American citizens pull together, there is little we can't accomplish. Today, millions of Americans united and chose change. This is a historic election for many reasons. Most importantly, the election of Barack Obama now offers a momentous opportunity for us to reclaim the American narrative that we most admire. We can reclaim our standing in the world and begin the necessary work to rebuild our economy and create greater opportunity for all citizens.
The focus of my work, of course, has been to change the narrative of American cities - with more than 80% of Americans living in cities or their suburbs; I believe it is critical for American success that we change the story of American cities.
American cities have in the past offered, and do now offer, abundant opportunity for our nation. However, the narrative in past decades for too many cities - be it perception, reality, or a combination of both -- has been marred by the flight of industry and the disappearance of jobs; the rise of lawlessness and plague of gangs; the decay of once proud institutions and schools that fail to educate at the levels that we expect; and too many people living at the margins of America's promise of abundant opportunity.
But I have witnessed the truth. The narrative in many cities has been slowly changing as hope is spreading to so many urban centers. Now with Obama as president, this growing hope can become an abundant harvest of dreams fulfilled. Obama's vision and many of his plans can move to end the urban narrative of negativity and tell a new story resonate with the best of American aspirations. Through difficult yet critical work, cities can become irrefutable and unassailable places of industrial, educational and artistic excellence; of a new enlightened green knowledge based economy; and a place of continuous innovation. Cities can become the engines that fuel our nation's growth and prosperity and they can be wide gateways for families to achieve their own American dream of prosperity. Cities can be places that represent the best of our ideals: where Americans of all different backgrounds can come together and through their interactions, and even through their unity, spawn true American greatness.
Barack Obama can be the president that helps America speak to the profound greatness of its rural areas, its suburbs and its mighty cities again.
About 18 months ago, I was proud to be one of New Jersey's first elected officials to endorse Senator Obama. When I first met with Senator Obama, it was clear to me that he had a deep and unique understanding of the central importance that our cities play in America's revival - that was one of the several reasons for my early endorsement and continuing support. He is committed to strengthening the federal commitment to our cities through several key initiatives, including:
- Creating a White House Office of Urban Policy to develop a strategy for metropolitan America and to ensure that all federal dollars targeted to urban areas are effectively spent on the highest-impact programs.
- Stimulating economic prosperity in urban areas by supporting job creation, enhancing workforce training, and increasing access to capital for underserved businesses.
- Increasing the supply of affordable housing, and ensuring that middle-class Americans get the financial assistance they need to purchase or keep their own home.
- Strengthening our transportation systems, including our roads and bridges - which also will create up to two million new direct and indirect jobs per year and stimulate approximately $35 billion per year in new economic activity.
- Reinforcing and refocusing on education programs that support teachers in urban schools, expand early childhood education and reduce the high school dropout rate. He also speaks to urban innovation and reform.
- Creating a new green economy, which will not only lower carbon output, increase energy efficiency, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil but also create new businesses and tens of thousands of new jobs.
- Support local law enforcement through fully-funded programs that place more police officers on the street and help address police brutality and accountability issues in local communities.
Obama's commitment to changing the narrative of American cities is critical to our nation's success. His vision for cities that are safe and affordable, centers of our new economy, the locus for educational excellence at all levels, places of research and innovation, engines for global competitiveness, and a place for great and diverse cultural expressions holds profound promise for America's future. This is the change our nation needs. This is the change that today we have voted for.
In the months to come, I look forward to working with our next President, Barack Obama, and his administration to begin the next great chapter of American history. Our success, however, is fully dependent upon how we as a nation unite in pursuit of our common ideals and values. Will we be committed to common struggle and collective sacrifice as our ancestors were? I believe we have the right leader, with the right message, to inspire us to act in concert and claim what I believe is America's great destiny.