Below is a transcript of the prepared remarks delivered by Councilmember Charles Allen on Wednesday, January 2, 2019 after he took the oath of office to begin his second term as Ward 6 Councilmember:
"Thank you all very much. First, let me thank Chief Judge Robert Morin for administering the oath today. He does an outstanding job leading the District’s Superior Court and it’s been an honor getting to know him the last couple of years. I’m looking forward to continuing to work closely together on the District’s behalf.
My congratulations as well to our warrior on the Hill (and my Ward 6 constituent) Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, to our Mayor and new mom Muriel Bowser, to our Attorney General Karl Racine, our Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, and to all of my colleagues on the Council, for their re-election this past year!
Four years ago, I took this oath of office alongside my wife and with our then-two-year-old daughter Cora in my arms. Ever daddy’s girl, we weren’t sure how it was going to go when I had to hand her off to give my remarks that day. And during the last four years, Jordi and I did our part to grow the District’s population above 700,000 and now, just like his big sister did 4 years ago, two-year old Everett got the best seat in the house for his daddy’s swearing in.
A campaign for any seat is hard. It’s tough. And it’s supposed to be that way. Elections are not given; they have to be earned. And I want to thank the many, many people who helped make this day possible – starting with my incredible staff, my awesome volunteers, and all the people across Ward 6 who put their trust in me for a second term to help lead and make decisions on their behalf. It is a trust I will never take for granted – and something I am humbly grateful for.
But more than anything, I want to thank my family. My wife is my best friend, my best advisor, and the best person I know. Her mix of calm patience and relentless tenacity – as well as her love – is something I am blessed to witness every day. Jordi also absolutely hates the spotlight, so I know she’s really enjoying this right now. And to our two children – Cora Neal and Everett – they are becoming the type of kind, generous, curious, and persistent young people that every parent hopes for. Every person on this stage will tell you this job requires a lot – and I miss a lot of bath-times and bed-times – but the kids make the most of every moment. And… Cora has become a pretty good door-knocker on the campaign trail!
As I was preparing for today, I thought about what’s changed since four years ago. Most obvious of course, I grew a beard.
But as I’ve thought about it more and more, over the course of just a few years, I feel like the urgency of our actions has grown significantly. Our values seem under constant attack by the current occupant of that big white building a few blocks further down Pennsylvania Avenue. And the tenor and tone of public discourse seems to have changed dramatically. Both at home, as well as around the country, it feels like the risks to our children and grandchildren’s future have deepened – as we need to both protect who we are as the District of Columbia, and who we will be in the years to come.
And as I also think about my own two children growing up, what is the story I want to tell them about this time in our lives? How am I making a difference for my community and my city – not just for them, but for everyone? At age 6, Cora is more aware than her 2-year-old brother. But in the not too distant future, they will both be a position to better understand the time we are in now, the impact it has on their lives, and how their future will be affected.
Whether in my younger days as a Boy Scout, or today on the Council, I’ve always believed that leadership must mean more than winning an election or being up in the polls. I believe it means that we have a duty, a responsibility, and an obligation to first, open ourselves to learn about lives and experiences that are not our own, and second, to be prepared to make bold decisions that leave our communities stronger than we found them. It’s not enough to just work to make sure my two children have a better tomorrow – I’m failing if I don’t carry that same urgency for every parent’s child. It’s not enough for me to work to make sure my family is better off this year than last – I’m failing if I don’t think about the well-being of every one of my neighbors. It’s not enough to think about how my parents or friends age in their community – I’m failing if I don’t see the hope in every family’s eyes to see their loved ones grow old in the communities they’re so much a part of making work.
I believe the measure of this moment in time requires big decisions of consequence. Too many forces are at work that hold progress at bay or slow it’s march. I believe in Dr. King’s words that the arc of the moral universe is long, but bends toward justice. But I don’t believe it bends on its own. There has to be a push. A force. An effort that creates the change. And like most things, that effort to change creates a significant counter-pressure to keep things exactly as they are. If we want that arc to bend, then we must move with a force greater than that which wants to hold onto power and cling to the way things may have always been.
The other day, I was in a book store and digging among the shelves in the back of the shop, I found a copy of the 1973 District of Columbia Code – and yes to the question you’re asking yourself right now… I’m that guy in the bookstore. It was our entire set of local laws from the last year before the District’s Home Rule began. It was a complete set and spanned a grand total of 3 books. Today, some 45 years later, the DC Code is 27 volumes.
Now certainly, we had some work to do once we fully owned our own laws. We’ve made incredible progress since 1973 – with innovative criminal justice reforms, protections for health and welfare of our residents, strong stewardship of our rivers and environment, and so much more.
But as I think back on my first term as your Ward 6 Councilmember, I’m incredibly proud of my contributions at the Council that have now made their way into the pages of those 27 volumes – such as reforming the Youth Rehabilitation Act to give young people the chance they need to break cycles of violence and work toward a safe and just city, or Automatic Voter Registration and the Fair Elections Act that will level the playing field and bring more DC voices into the elections that shape our shared future, or a Books From Birth program that has delivered 600,000 free books to more than 30,000 District kids to improve early childhood literacy, or maybe, even the small things like adding the word “end” to our license plates so they now read “End Taxation Without Representation”. But the job is so much more than writing the laws and passing a budget. It’s the life in-between the words and the pages that often matters most. It’s getting to help the senior couple struggling to pay the bills and who needs to stay in their home. Or the working mom who needed help getting their kid to school on time. Or the small business owner who has gambled it all on themselves and their own ideas, and just needs their government to work a little bit better. Or the 170 seniors who lost their homes and almost everything they possess in an instant during an afternoon fire that took an entire building – and they need their city to help them get back on their feet.
These are stories you won’t find on any page of those 27 volumes, but they are part of the challenges we face and the solutions we must find. We are facing moments of consequence every day – whether for that individual resident, for that working family, or for the entire District to lead and show how we get things done. And while our story is still being written, much of it will never show up within the pages of any copy of the DC Code – it’ll be told with the actions we take, the causes we fight for, and the ideas we inspire for the District’s future.
The story I want to be able to tell my children is one of hope and determination – that leaves my community better than I found it. That as we look back at this moment in our history, that I worked hard to meet the challenges of today with a vision of where we must go tomorrow. And of course, this opportunity of responsibility falls not on one of us, but on all of us. So whether we’re launching major new initiatives like Paid Family Leave or getting a stop sign and crosswalk installed at a dangerous intersection, today’s ceremony is about all of us renewing our dedication to make life better – in ways both big and small – every day for the amazing people who call DC home and put their trust in us to take this oath.
I’m incredibly proud of the work I’ve done over the last four years, I’m excited to get back to work with my colleagues to solve problems for the next four years, and I’m very grateful that you’ve given me a chance to add to the story we’ll all tell one day. Thank you all very much!"
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