Editor’s Note: This is the text of former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s speech in Houston, Texas, on February 13, 2020. After launching the Greenwood Initiative in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the historic Greenwood District, state-level Bloomberg campaigns around the nation began hosting Greenwood Initiative round-tables and conversations.
“Thank you and good evening. How is everybody? What an amazing night and an amazing crowd – thank you all for coming out.
“Let’s hear it for all of tonight’s speakers and the entire production team, including everyone involved in making those incredible videos. Weren’t they great?
“And let’s hear it for Houston’s own, the legendary Yolanda Adams. Did you know that she has performed for five American presidents? What do you think? Can we make it six?
“Let me especially thank Garnesha and Niiobli for all of their work to put together this event tonight.
“And [Houston] Mayor [Sylvester] Turner, thank you for your kind words tonight, and your wise counsel whenever I’ve needed it. I’m glad to call you a friend and a partner.
“I think Houston really made the right choice when they re-elected the mayor – and it’s an honor to have his endorsement in this campaign. And I just want to thank him for reading the introduction exactly the way I wrote it.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in Houston over the past couple of months. Tonight, I’ve come here to the historic Third Ward – not the Museum District or Midtown as some people might say – get it right.
“As we all know, this is Black History Month, and Houston really is a wonderful place to celebrate the greatness of Black America. This city is home to Barbara Jordan, and Mickey Leeland, and Yolanda Adams, and of course, Beyoncé.
“Houston is home to Emancipation Park, Freedmen’s Town, and the Eldorado Ballroom. And just look around this amazing museum, it really is spectacular.
“This month, we look back and celebrate Black history together because Black history is American history. And tonight, we look forward, too.
“I am here to tell you how deeply committed I am to serving as your partner in the White House, but first I need your help to get to the White House. And I think that’s one of the important things we can do. The most important job I’m going to have is to defeat Donald Trump this November. And start getting big things done. And start putting the ‘United’ back in the United States of America.
“Now, the President attacked me this morning on Twitter – and he attacked me again this afternoon in an interview. So, let me say this: Mr. President, you can’t bully me – and I won’t let you bully the American people.
“I am going to take the fight to Donald Trump all over America, including right here in Texas, because I believe this year we can turn Texas blue. And turning Texas blue starts with uniting Black, Brown, and White voters across the state. So tonight, we are launching what we call Mike for Black America.
“But first, before I ask you to join me in this coalition to strengthen Black America and build a stronger country, I want to give you a better sense of who I am, what I believe, what I feel in my heart, and why this effort is so important to me.
“Throughout my career – in business, and in government, and in giving away all my money – I’ve tried to do the right thing. It’s what I do, folks. I made it, I’m very lucky, and now I’m going to try to do something good with it. Not the popular thing or the politically correct thing, but the right thing.
“Now, I didn’t get everything right in my life – not by a long shot. And tonight I do want to address something that I did get very wrong so you understand where I stand, and what I believe, and what I will do as president.
“I’m a leader who can be honest about my mistakes. And I believe that when you make a mistake, you must learn from it and – next time – do the right thing.
“When I first took office, families in New York City were losing their children to gun violence at an alarming rate. My focus was clear: I wanted to save lives and respond with urgency to the crisis that was plaguing our communities.
“While many of the ways we tried to reduce gun violence and invest in communities were right, and we reduced murder by 50 percent, there is one approach that I deeply regret: the abuse of a police practice called stop and frisk.
“I defended it, looking back, for too long because I didn’t understand then the unintended pain it was causing to young Black and Brown families and their kids.
“I should have acted sooner and faster to stop it – I didn’t, and for that I apologized.
“I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with Black leaders and community members and listening to their stories. I heard their pain, their confusion, and their anger, and I’ve learned from them, and I’ve grown from them.
“Now I know I can’t change history. But what I can do is learn from my mistakes – and use those lessons to do right by Black and Brown communities who have suffered.
“So tonight, let me make it clear: as President of the United States, I will work to dismantle systems that are plagued by bias and discrimination. I will invest in the communities that have borne the brunt of those systems for generations. And I will put this work at the very top of our agenda.
“Tonight, we are creating Mike for Black America because I am committed to using the power of the presidency to right the wrongs of institutional racism wherever they exist: in our schools, workplaces, prisons, courtrooms, and our health care system and housing markets.
“As president, I will appoint a cabinet that shares my commitment to confronting these issues head-on, and who have experienced and lived these issues in their own lives, and will have the perspective to shape the policies we develop.
“I have been working on these issues of racial equality for years, and in the White House, I will bring together a diverse team to double down on that work.
“Everything we’ve ever tried to do in public life comes from one motivation: I’ve always worked to help people live the longest, healthiest, most fulfilling lives they possibly can, to make real the promise of freedom and equality for everyone in our country, and to help make the world a better place for our kids, our grandkids, our neighbors, and our communities. Those are the values I learned from my parents and I’ve always carried with me.
“When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money. Growing up, my father never made more than six grand the best year of his life. And when my parents tried to buy the house that I grew up in, the owners wouldn’t sell it to them. They didn’t want a Jewish family in the neighborhood.
“Fortunately for us, our Irish lawyer was willing to buy it and transfer it to our parents, true story. I was only four-years-old at the time, so my father told me this. But if our family had been Black, I doubt that we would’ve been so lucky, and I would not have gotten the same opportunities I had in life. Let’s face facts, life is not fair.
“One of my earliest memories in that house was sitting at the kitchen table, watching my father write a check to the NAACP. I remember asking him, ‘Daddy, why are you giving money to the NAACP?’ And what he told me I will never forget. He said, ‘Because discrimination against anyone threatens us all.’
“So I was taught about the importance of treating people equally at a young age. And I can promise you, as president I will lead a full-frontal assault on racial injustice and on those who try to spread intolerance and hatred.
“This is work that I’ve done for years – before I was mayor, 12 years as mayor, and ever since – in close partnership with Black leaders from around the country. And at my foundation – Bloomberg Philanthropies – we’ve worked very closely with mayors, in particular.
“Drawing from our experience in New York, we’ve made helping mayors a big focus of our efforts to spread effective policies and programs. We’ve teamed up with Houston, Atlanta, Memphis, Oakland, Gary, Indiana – the list goes on and on. And the policies that I will pursue as president owe much to the work that we’ve done with mayors in these cities.
“Tonight, I’m honored to be joined by a number of mayors whose friendship and partnership mean a great deal to me: Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., who I hope to call Governor Bowser when we deliver statehood and full voting rights to the people of Washington. And another one of our campaign’s national co-chairs, Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina, who has a great future ahead of him.
“They are among 12 mayors who made the trip to Houston tonight, and I hope you’ll join me in giving them all a round of applause – the one they deserve it.
“For 15 years, I’ve been working to build coalitions of mayors to take on national issues where Washington is failing – and I just wanted to share with you two examples.
“Back in 2006, I started the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition. We brought over 1,000 mayors to take on the NRA and fight the scourge of gun violence.
“With Moms Demand Action, we launched Everytown for Gun Safety – which is now the biggest gun violence prevention group in the country with six million supporters, including many here in Houston.
“And, together, we are making progress in states around the country – just not in Congress. Next year, we’re going to change that.
“In New York, I also started a program called the Young Men’s Initiative – which was the first city-led effort to tackle the disparities that young men of color face in education, employment, health, and more.
“I’m proud to say our work helped inspire President Obama to create the My Brother’s Keeper organization which has helped young men across the country, including right here in Houston.
“President Obama did a lot of good work on these issues. But President Trump slammed on the brakes. So we have to get the engine going again – and start putting the pedal to the metal.
“That’s where our Greenwood Initiative comes in. Our mission is to right historic wrongs, build Black wealth, and spread opportunity to more Black communities.
“Here’s the future that the Greenwood Initiative envisions for Black America. Over the next decade, we’re going to help one million more Black families own a home, we’re going to double the number of Black-owned businesses, and we’re going to triple the wealth of Black families to substantially close the racial wealth gap. Together, let me tell you, we will get it done. I know how to do it – we did it in New York City, we can do it here.
“Part of our work will involve helping more Black Americans get on track to a successful career. That means we will triple funding for Historically Black College and Universities like Alabama State, which I visited last weekend, and Texas Southern, just down the road here in Houston. Go Tigers!
“I’ve been helping students afford good colleges for years – and as president, I will make sure that HBCUs have the resources not just to survive, but to grow.
“When I am president, we will build a future in which Black communities live free from the horrors of gun violence.
“We will build a future in which we better protect the health of Black mothers and their babies. You should know that Black babies die at rates twice as high as white babies because of a lack of access to affordable health care. And here in the wealthiest country in the world, we cannot accept that – and together we will change it.
“When I am president, we will build a future in which all of us share in our country’s progress and the rewards. Just think about this: if we could eliminate the racial wealth gap in this generation, we could add $1.5 trillion to the U.S. economy.
“Everyone would benefit. What’s not to love? So what are we waiting for?
“Ending economic inequality across all communities won’t be easy. But I’m not running to do small things. I’m running to do the big things that make a big difference.
“That is the kind of president I will be. But first things first: we have to win this election.
“So my message I’m taking to everybody: partnership, inclusion, and honesty all over America. And everywhere I go, I’m making the case against Donald Trump – because we’ve just got to beat him.
“I believe I’m the strongest candidate to do that. I believe that we can build the most effective, most diverse campaign team – just like we’ve built here in Texas.
“And speaking of, let’s hear it for Houston’s Ashley Turner and our Texas team.
“So tonight, I’m asking for your help and for your vote. I hope you’ll talk to your friends, talk to your families – and tell them what this campaign is all about. And make sure they vote. Because together, we can get it done.
“So let me leave you with one thought: if you want a president who is committed to listening to your stories and struggles, your ideas and your dreams, if you want quality health insurance for everyone, if you want to combat inequality with fairer taxes and better jobs, if you support my commitment to quality education no matter what zip code you live in, if you share my belief in opportunity for all, if you are ready to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and if you are ready to clean out the Oval Office and get things done – then please join our campaign and let’s go and win this.
“Thank you, and have a great night.”