June 02, 2006
Eliot Spitzer Out And So Does Profesor Martin
By Profesor Martin N. Danenberg “El Quijote del GED”
You can see my comments in parentheses. Eliot Spitzer and I grew up on the Lower East Side. You cannot find a Jewish deli near East Fifth Street or along Avenue B. The Jewish grocers are gone and so are the butchers. They have been gone a long time. They sold their businesses or lost them during riots. When a student I taught in JHS 22 told me that Ox Brothers was one of the stores in the riot there, I corrected him by telling him the name of the store was Fox Brothers and not Ox Brothers. Read the parts of Spitzer’s speech carefully below and decide if my comments are valid.
My fellow New Yorkers, for over two hundred years, since the earliest days of our nation's founding, people from across the country and all over the world have looked to our state as a shining example of what's best about America.
Because it was there, at Ellis Island, where millions upon millions of weary travelers, including my four grandparents, came from all over the world to find hope. People of every race and creed and background who had heard that in America, opportunity was not the province of kings and aristocrats, but of every willing heart ready to work and sweat and toil for a better life.
Throughout the centuries they came – some who had been in chains, some who had been refugees, others who just wanted a chance. And in search of this dream, they went on to settle in Albany and Schenectady; in Buffalo and Syracuse; and on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where my father, the son of Jewish immigrants, grew up on the fifth floor of a cold-water tenement.
He didn't have much back then. He didn't have money or connections; he knew no friends in high places. And yet, it didn't matter.
It didn't matter because my father lived in a New York where this was no barrier to success. A New York where opportunity was on his side. Where he had the chance to go to college for free. Where he was able to find a job as an engineer, build his own business from nothing, and raise his children to believe that they too could live that life.
(People have to understand that the Hispanic immigrants are living in a totally different world from the world of our grandparents and parents. Hispanics do assimilate but not in the great numbers of the “Old” and “New” immigrants of American history. There are reasons why that are not being addressed.)
Only six out of every ten of our children will graduate from high school in this state – the third highest dropout rate in America. And of those who do graduate, only four in ten will go on to finish college. (What about addressing the education of all of those adults who have dropped out of school now!)
At the dawn of the 21st Century, revolutions in technology and communications are sending the best jobs to wherever the brightest minds and finest business climate can be found. If another state lowers the cost of health care and energy and property taxes, prosperity will follow it there. If China and India keep educating their children longer and better, if they keep graduating more engineers and scientists than we do, the future will be theirs, not ours.
And if we let this happen – if we stand by and watch – then the state that once welcomed millions to its shores will instead continue to watch millions depart New York forever. (China’s growth started with businesses contracting their labor as early as the 1970’s. So this has been happening all along and more people are coming to New York.)
Ladies and gentleman, this is not the New York we believe in. It's not the one we dream of for our children. It ignores the greatness of our past, and today I'm here to tell you that it will not be our future. (I noticed the garment center disappeared in the past and other industries. The Brooklyn Navy Yard closed. We were lucky that there was room to expand on Long Island or people would have moved out of state back then.)
You see, for the last twelve years, as the economy has been transformed and the world has moved forward and our people have struggled, it is only Albany that has stood remarkably still.
If you have a problem, they don't have the answer. If there's a challenge to be met, they have an excuse to avoid it. If there's an extra tax dollar lying around, they'll spend it. And if there's not – well, they'll spend that one too.
My friends, ours is not a crisis of ideas. It's not a crisis of talent or resources or even solutions. Because as New Yorkers, there is no problem we cannot solve. (Solve the fact that around 2.2 million New Yorkers have no high school diploma or GED. And that New York has been around 35th in GED delivery since 1991).
Ours is a crisis of leadership, a crisis of accountability. It's the kind I saw on Wall Street seven years ago. It's the kind we're seeing in Washington right now.
All across the country, there is the sense that the government that is supposed to represent us has forgotten how – that those who hold the cards are also stacking the deck against us.
You know how it is. Some get the tax breaks and we get the tax bills. Some get unqualified cronies into political jobs while you're struggling just to keep yours. (Give us a new tax package so we can invest in our future, just the way the rich invest to build a great retirement for themselves. Yes we should be able to invest the way rich people do and we can obtain this democratically if legislators wake up to the fact thatt there are alternatives to only giving the rich tax breaks.)
And in the years to come, the only distinction they'll be remembered for is the fact that nobody has ever done so much for so few who need so little.
Make no mistake – people are not looking for a heavy handed government to cure all of their ills and make every problem go away. But is it too much to expect a government that works? That's not gridlocked and incompetent? A government committed to results?
At the very least, shouldn't we expect – and don't we deserve – a government that gives everyone the same shot at the American Dream?
Day one is when we change the cycle of failure to ensure that for every New Yorker, the path to opportunity and prosperity begins in our schools. It's when we refuse to send our kids to overcrowded classrooms in crumbling buildings.
Day one is when we fully fund education in this state; when we refuse to let students walk out the door before earning their diploma; and when we make sure every single New Yorker has the chance to afford the college education they'll need to get ahead in a twenty first century economy. We will aspire not to mere competence or mere sufficiency, but to excellence for every student in the state. (Poverty will always force large numbers of youth out of school. Help them get a GED right away so they can be competitive instead of waiting for them to reach 24 or 35. And do it in a way that is productive, creating great savings for taxpayers.)
My fellow New Yorkers, today I tell you that our moment is here.
Our time is now.
Together, we will seize this opportunity to restore our state and continue our upward journey.
Ahorre June 2, 2006 09:43 PM