|Watch the full speech with President Bollinger's introduction here. (33:37)
In one of his first public addresses since being elected mayor three weeks ago, Bill de Blasio came to Columbia to give the keynote address at the Earth Institute’s
NYC Summit on Children, an all-day conference on the value of early childhood development programs and pre-kindergarten education.
More than a hundred academics, policymakers, and practitioners in education, social services and health came together at the Roone Arledge Auditorium to discuss the well-being of New York City's children and offer specific recommendations to help every child reach his or her full potential. Access to these critical interventions is especially problematic for New York’s most economically disadvantaged families.
“Now is a moment for transformational change, ” said de Blasio. “Those moments don’t come often. They have to be grabbed when they present themselves.”
The summit, organized by Earth Institute director Jeff Sachs
and Irwin Redlener, director of the Earth Institute’s new program on Child Well-Being and Resilience
, comes as the city prepares for de Blasio’s new administration. A wide range of expert participants emphasized and supported key parts of the mayor-elect’s policy platform, including his call for universal pre-kindergarten education and increased availability of quality after-school programs.
Reflecting on the election, with his 45-point lead over his opponent, de Blasio said, “Within that vote was a clear mandate for a series of changes we need to take in New York City. The folks who voted expect us to follow through.”
The mayor-elect is hoping to gain widespread support for his plan to assure universal access to pre-K education for every four-year-old in New York City as early as possible in his first term, which begins on January 1.
"We are proud to welcome mayor-elect de Blasio back to campus where he earned his graduate degree in public affairs," said University President Lee C. Bollinger
. "Given the challenges our society faces here in New York and around the world, it’s never been more profoundly important for our great research universities to commit both our intellectual capacity and our convening power to the search for solutions as we are doing here today."
The first panel of the conference, moderated by Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at Demos and former New York Times columnist, looked at the current state of children’s well-being and NYC’s education system from several vantage points: the effects of poverty; access to health care and nutrition; challenges at the community level; and meeting the educational needs of young children.
The second panel, moderated by broadcast journalist and author Jane Pauley, underscored the data that shows the life-long negative consequences of failing to ensure that children are truly ready to start school and perform effectively in the classroom.
The last discussion was led by Brian Lehrer of WNYC and looked at opportunities the mayor-elect will have to make sure that disparities are eliminated and that every child in the city is ready to learn and succeed.
"This is a time of great opportunity and promise for New York City,” said Sachs. “I am confident that the summit and the follow up will support the incoming mayor to promote the well-being of New York's children."
The Earth Institute’s new program will focus on broad challenges affecting children and their long-term well-being and prospects in the United States and globally.
“Extensive research over the last several decades has left no doubt that investments in eliminating social and economic disparities in children, improving parental skills, focusing on early development and assuring universal access to pre-K programs can have life-long benefits for children, their communities and society as a whole,” said Redlener.
—By Columbia News
—Video By Columbia News Video Team