“There’s enough space for everyone in the city, whether you’re seeking asylum” or homeless, he told the applauding crowd at the University of Illinois at Chicago Credit 1 Arena. «We don’t want the story of Chicago to be that we didn’t invest in all of our people.»
However, the real refrain of his speech was «Chicago soul,» which he used to address the importance of investing in underserved communities.
“The soul of Chicago tells us that we will never close our doors to those who come here in search of a better life,” Johnson, a pastor’s son, said in a moving 40-minute speech. “That has always been the soul of Chicago. And he will always be the soul of Chicago.»
The new mayor continued: “No one should be too poor to live in one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries in the world. … We can bring Chicago home, Chicago.”
«We don’t want our story to be that we are traumatized by the violence…and that the residents had no choice but to leave,» he said. That will not be our story. Not on my watch.
Johnson received the wildest applause when he reiterated his support for “treatment, not trauma,” a reference to his support for reopening public mental health facilities to work with the nonprofit facilities the outgoing mayor has endorsed. Lori Lightfoot. His immediate predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, had closed public health facilities, and the debate over whether or not to reopen them fueled much of the political campaign.
Johnson was sworn in after exchanging a handshake with Lightfoot, who received loud applause as he welcomed the crowd «to a peaceful transfer of power.»
It was a reminder that even though Lightfoot lost her re-election bid, she and Johnson are united as Democrats.
Johnson weaved humor into a speech that was an ode to Chicago, reminding people that he was one of 10 children and learned to negotiate.
In addition to picking up where Lightfoot left off in trying to tackle a widening immigration crisis and ongoing violence, Johnson will also have to figure out how to tackle the city’s serious pension problems.
Johnson was a county board commissioner and paid organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union before running for mayor. He and former public school executive Paul Vallas defeated Lightfoot in the February 28 election, and then Johnson defeated Vallas in the April 4 runoff.
Johnson was endorsed by the CTU, which for a decade had tried to elevate a candidate who supported social justice issues to the mayor’s office. Members of the CTU and SEIU, who also pushed Johnson’s campaign, were in full swing at Johnson’s oath, even chanting union names back and forth before the ceremony began.
Johnson also paid tribute to the 50 newly elected members of the Chicago City Council, with whom he must work to further his efforts to «invest in people.»
The Council’s Progressive Caucus has grown, giving Johnson a strong voting bloc in his administration. But his 20 members aren’t enough to make decisions directly, so he’ll have to work with all the councilors to get things done.
Johnson began the day with a «kick-off tour,» making stops on the west side of the city before arriving at UIC Stadium for the ceremony.
Later Monday afternoon, he will participate in a long-standing tradition of Chicago’s new mayors by greeting residents who will line up to congratulate him at City Hall.
Later Monday, Johnson will be feted at an invitation-only event for supporters, elected officials and community leaders called «The People’s Ball.»