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Welcome everyone to this very special occasion, a time to salute civic involvement -- your involvement -- in your city. I want to thank the Housing and Neighborhood Development Department for having administered Citizens' Academy for 20 years, with special thanks going to HAND Director Doris Sims, and Program Manager Vickie Provine for all of her work coordinating the many people and departments that come together to make Citizens' Academy happen every autumn. And maybe my biggest thanks goes to YOU, 20 years of Citizens' Academy alumni, folks who have cared enough to devote your time and attention to learning how your government works and how you might serve.

It is especially relevant that we are marking this important anniversary this week, on the heels of a very polemical election.  As political rhetoric gets increasingly heated, and divisive, it is heartening to see how many people abide in the belief that government works to make life better for all of us, that our elected officials represent us, and that the system works better when residents get involved, instead of growing apathetic.  

You got involved in Citizens' Academy for many different reasons, perhaps, but underneath all of those reasons was a vested interest in this city and a shared commitment to its well being.  Regardless of partisan affiliation, all of you went through this program because you know, as New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia famously said, “ There is no Democratic or Republican way to pick up garbage.”  Rather, there are some good ways and some not-so-good ways to pick up garbage, run water into your home, pave the streets, keep you safe, and many, many other services your city government provides. You’re all here because you are interested in that delivery of municipal services, simply to feel more connected to the city you call home, or because you want to play a role in that delivery process.  Over the last two decades, many of you graduates have played key roles in decision making for the city as members of boards and commissions. Five current city council members matriculated from the Citizens' Academy! Who knows where your curiosity might lead?

Whatever you’ve done with your Citizens' Academy “degree,” I thank you heartily for having participated. You are model Citizens', working toward large goals that go beyond personal benefit, robustly participating in democracy. We saw further evidence of this just days ago, on Election Day, and in the weeks leading up to it, in the form of the long lines around the block at 7th and Madison Streets. Voter turnout in Monroe County was reported to be double that of the previous midterm election. I am proud to live in and be the mayor of a city whose residents care so much, who do their part and so much more to work toward a better tomorrow in our beloved city, and beyond.    

Congratulations, and thank you. I will look forward to working with all of you tomorrow and in the years ahead.  

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