Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama, Clinton, Gillibrand and Donovan Take on New Roles and Manhattan Benefits

What an incredible week. We returned to Manhattan from the Inauguration in Washington, DC to find that the impact of the election of President Obama was still rippling through New York State.

In a week that saw Senator Hillary Clinton become Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and NYC Housing Commissioner Shaun Donovan become Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, we welcomed a new President into the White House with a memorable Inauguration, and we witnessed the selection of our new junior Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand by Governor Paterson. In each case, we are fortunate to be represented by and served by these individuals.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Our association with Kirsten Gillibrand dates back to the 1998 Senate race in which Chuck Schumer took on Al D'Amato. D'Amato had generally been viewed as difficult to defeat, and Senator Moynihan was reluctant to work against the re-election of his partner from New York State. Kirsten and I were part of a small group of young professionals who raised tens of thousands of dollars for the 1998 campaign. The principal fundraising events were large parties at night clubs, and the most memorable of those parties took place on the same night that the New York Yankees completed their sweep of the San Diego Padres to win the 1998 World Series.

We listed Kirsten Gillibrand as one of our preferred choices for the US Senate seat when we question the media's attraction to Caroline Kennedy. We did so both because we have known Senator Gillibrand for more than a decade and because we know that she will serve our state well.

Senator Gillibrand was so drawn to public service that she left her very promising legal career at a top Manhattan law firm to join Andrew Cuomo's Housing and Urban Development Department in Washington. After the Bush victory over Al Gore in 2000, she practiced law in Manhattan again for a while but ultimately returned to the Albany area where she was raised. I was so grateful to have her as a host when I led a fundraiser for State Senator Barack Obama's US Senate race in June 2004 in mid-town Manhattan. I was far more excited to see her elected to the US House of Representatives two years later.

Some detractors have noted that Senator Gillibrand's House of Representatives record is less liberal than many members of the New York Delegation to the House of Representatives. We are eager to point out that her centrist stances make her more likely to be able to hold onto her Senate seat in 2010 and in 2012 (she will need to run state-wide twice in two years in order to gain her own six-year term). Moreover, she is well-regarded by left-leaning organizations with high credibility while being unpopular with conservative organizations. She received an 8% rating from the American Conservative Union and a 90% rating from the ACLU. She is a progressive who grew up in an area with a strong hunting culture. When she represented that same area as an adult, she reflected her constituents' desires for gun rights. Her ability to understand rural voters and hunters will serve her well in the US Senate, and the depth of her knowledge of New York City will affect how she looks at gun issues as she seeks to represent our entire state.,0,7080288.story

Senator Gillibrand is a hard working and tenacious leader with tremendous intellect and a very natural understanding of the challenges that face hard working families in New York State. She and her husband have two young children, and she is extremely well connected in NYC. She defeated an incumbent Republican member of the US House of Representatives in 2006 in a Republican district, and she served her constituents so well that she defeated a former head of the New York State Republican Party (who had virtually unlimited personal financial resources for the race) in the 2008 race by an eye-popping margin of 62% to 38%. She has proven herself to be an excellent student of the issues and a gifted fundraiser. Governor Paterson should be commended for such an excellent choice.

Secretary Shaun Donovan

This week, NYC's Housing Commissioner became our nation's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Here in Manhattan, housing is one of the most important public policy issues facing our leadership. Shaun Donovan knows the issues we face in New York City because he has been working to solve them. We look forward to benefiting from his leadership.

Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama

Finally . . . We finally were able to watch President Bush leave the White House and President Obama enter the White House. Our credibility with the world is being restored by our new President with the help of our new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Secretary Clinton was an extraordinary Senator and a tremendous inspiration. We will miss having her looking out for just our state; she now represents all of the interests of the United States all over the world on behalf of our new President.

After a cold day that was both physically and emotionally draining, the Inaugural Balls were an excellent way to complete the celebration of the peaceful transfer of power that our country accomplishes so regularly and ordinarily without much attention beyond those fascinated by government and politics. As I watched President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama dance at the Mid-Atlantic Ball, I thought about a particular portion of his Inauguration Speech and how the man who was gliding so effortlessly across the dance floor now faced enormous challenges and lofty expectations. I was reminded that he knows the enormity of the challenges and that as he inspires us, he is himself inspired by the courage and sacrifice of those who have gone before us and paved the way for us to enjoy the blessings of liberty and to have the tools to face our own crises with confidence. In his speech on January 20, 2009, President Obama said:

So let us mark this day with remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At the moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words to be read to the people:
"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

We are ready to meet our challenges with our new President, our new Secretary of State, our new Secretary of HUD, and our new junior Senator from NYS, and we are grateful to have such talent working on our behalf.

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