Today at noon, it will be the honor of a lifetime to be sworn into the succession of Boston mayors, and especially to step onto the trail blazed so brightly by Mayor Kim Janey. This is Boston’s moment to walk together into our shared possibility.
The first time I set foot in Boston City Hall, I felt invisible — swallowed up by the cavernous concrete hallways, and shrunk down even more with every checkpoint and looming government counter. My immigrant family tried to stay away from spaces like these. But our struggles brought me to an internship in the mayor’s office during law school and an unexpected full-circle journey.
After a decade in city government, now my heart swells whenever I enter the building. I know City Hall’s passageways and stairwells like my own home. But most of all, I’ve seen how much is possible when we connect the power of city government to the force of our neighborhoods and communities.
That sense of possibility drove our campaign for more than a year with joyful urgency. We organized across every corner of Boston: in living rooms and libraries, bodegas and barbershops, festivals and phone banks. First-time campaign volunteers joined veteran politicos to build neighborhood and constituency teams reflecting our city, spanning every generation. Our team broke down barriers with organizing night school sessions and multilingual outreach. Our volunteers broke the mold of city politics with a focus on meeting every resident where they are to build a movement for change.
Ours is the nation’s oldest public school system, and we are the global capital of higher education, but too many of our students aren’t surrounded with the resources to thrive. We celebrate a powerful business and cultural ecosystem but face a housing crisis that displaces families and a public transit system that is unreliable and unaffordable for those who need it most, and this must change. We are a coastal city that can’t afford to wait for global leaders to address the threat to our health and infrastructure from climate change, so we must lead that charge ourselves. We are a health care innovation hub, but our vibrant city is still in recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and a humanitarian crisis has developed at the intersection of substance use, mental health, and homelessness.
Most of the residents we met over this last year, at events or on their doorsteps, had never set foot in City Hall before. But their community leadership and lived experience hold the solutions to our city’s deepest challenges. Mothers in East Boston fighting for clean air and climate justice for all our children. Young people in Charlestown planting flowers to build a community peace garden. Innovators in Roxbury mapping out jobs and pathways for the next generation. Artists in Allston reimagining community planning grounded in housing justice. Immigrant leaders in Mattapan creating spaces for seniors with compassion and love.
City government is the level closest to the people, so our charge uniquely embodies the big and the small. Every streetlight, every pothole, every park, lays the foundation for greater change. Not only is it possible for Boston to deliver basic city services and generational change — it is absolutely necessary in this moment. We’ll tackle big challenges by getting the small things right, and by getting City Hall out of City Hall and into our neighborhoods.
Block by block, street by street, our city has the resources, the activism, and the ideas to meet these challenges if we act boldly and reshape what’s possible.
After all, Boston was founded on a revolutionary promise: that things don’t have to be as they always have been. That we can chart a new path for families now, and for generations to come, grounded in justice and opportunity.
I invite every Bostonian who wants to help shape our future, whether by volunteering in our neighborhoods or joining our city workforce, to be part of this critical moment, to come on board.
When Boston harnesses the collective energy, activism, and joy of all our communities, we will make the change we need and deserve — at scale and at street level. We’ll see the value of each person in our community and the possibility for the future of our city, with every one of us marching together into our promise.
Michelle Wu is the 56th mayor of Boston.