Barack Obama photo

Remarks to the United States Conference of Mayors

January 23, 2015

Thank you! Hey! Good to see you, mayors. Good to see you. All right, everybody, have a seat, have a seat. I would have thought that would bring back bad memories for Kevin, playing that song. [Laughter]

I want to thank Kevin for that introduction. I have to say that that introduction is longer than my remarks and more exciting. [Laughter] So I'm feeling a little outshone here by Kevin. But as everybody knows, Kevin has that flair about him; he did when he was a professional basketball player. He, not surprisingly, has brought that flair to his outstanding work in Sacramento, and we're very, very proud of him. So I just want to thank him for his outstanding leadership, as well as the introduction. Give Kevin a big round of applause.

I want to thank Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore and Mayor Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City for their leadership as well. We are very proud of them. And I want to just thank all of you.

We've got—is that playing again, Kevin? [Laughter] We've got over 200 mayors here, representing tens of millions of Americans. And I think as you've seen today, we take our partnership with you seriously because you're often the place where change happens fastest. That's one of the reasons why I named—two of my Cabinet members happen to be former mayors; a former president of this conference, Jerry Abramson of Louisville, is one of my top advisers.

The other night, I talked about what we can do together to make sure that middle class economics helps more Americans get ahead in the new economy. And that's something we want to partner with you on as well. And in some areas—in fact, many areas—we already have.

Last year, we kicked off the Mayors' Maker Challenge to support local entrepreneurs working to create the industries and jobs of the future. And Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville stepped up. Now students and engineers are creating smarter appliances at a community space in town, and hundreds of folks are getting trained for local software development jobs.

We've worked with some of you to raise the minimum wage without waiting for Congress. And more than 20 cities and counties have stepped up to raise the wage since 2013. Some have passed sick leave laws as well, and I want to help more of you do that. We launched the Mayors' Challenge To End Veterans Homelessness. And Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans stepped up. Just a few weeks ago, New Orleans became the first major city to wipe out homelessness among veterans, and we could not be prouder of them. Thank you. And Mayor Greg Stanton in Phoenix, Mayor Ralph Becker in Salt Lake City are closing in on that goal as well.

We issued a "My Brother's Keeper" Community Challenge to create more pathways of success for boys and young men of color, and all young people, and over 150 local and tribal leaders have stepped up. So in Birmingham, Mayor William Bell and business leaders have created a mentoring program. In New Haven, Mayor Toni Harp is canvassing neighborhoods along with police, teachers, and firefighters to connect kids with services and support. So that's what mayors do. They get things done. They make things happen. And on other urgent issues, like responding to climate change or getting more families insured, rebuilding infrastructure, making sure that our youngest Americans get the best start in life with quality pre-K, mayors like you are helping to get it done. And we want to help.

So I had a chance to meet some folks earlier before I came out here, and I just emphasized to them what I always do whenever I'm at a Mayors Conference, and that is to emphasize that we are here in large part to make sure that you are able to achieve your goals. Because if cities are successful, then America is going to be successful. That's not disrespect towards suburbs, that's not disrespect towards rural communities. The truth is, in every State of our Union, the city and its health becomes a bellwether for how well the State as a whole is doing. And that's true around the world as well.

What we know now is that successful cities and metropolitan areas end up being the engines by which communities and States and ultimately nations succeed. And what I also say whenever I meet with mayors is that I have confidence in you because the fact is that you can't afford to be ideological. I don't care whether you're Republican, Democratic, or Independent, the truth of the matter is, folks want to make sure that their garbage is picked up, that their roads are functioning properly and traffic isn't sucking away their days. They want to make sure that their schools are high quality, and they want to make sure that their streets are free from crime.

And so you don't have the luxury of just yacking instead of doing. [Laughter] Because at some point, people are going to ask, what are you getting done? And that, in this town, is always refreshing—[laughter]—and I think presents enormous opportunities, which is part of the reason why our Cabinet members are always so excited to present to you what they're doing and to find out what's working for you.

Because my instructions to my Cabinet over these last 2 years is that we want to squeeze every possible opportunity to do some good from this fourth quarter. And a lot of stuff happens in the fourth quarter. [Laughter] And one of the most promising avenues for us is to partner with you and help you do some of the terrific things you're already doing and help you with visions of things that you want to do in the future.

And I can guarantee you that we will not only partner with you aggressively, but we're also going to be creative and show flexibility. And if you have ideas that don't neatly fit into what's already being done, we're going to try to come up with answers to make sure that you can succeed.

All right? So thank you all for being here. Thank you for the great work that you are doing. With that, I'm going to take a couple of questions, but I think we're going to ask our fourth estate just to step out 1 second so we can let our hair down, as they say. [Laughter]

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:54 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Kevin M. Johnson of Sacramento, CA; Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, in his former capacity as mayor of San Antonio, TX; Secretary of Transportation Anthony R. Foxx, in his former capacity as mayor of Charlotte, NC; and Jerry E. Abramson, Director, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Barack Obama, Remarks to the United States Conference of Mayors Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives