A rabbi, a bishop, a Buddhist monk, a sheikh, a Sikh and a Hindu priest walked into a library this morning to bid farewell to a mayor.
Michael Bloomberg attended his final event as the city’s 108th mayor today, offering thanks and parting words at his 13th annual interfaith breakfast at the grand New York Public Library.
“Serving as mayor, working alongside you for the betterment of New York City has been one of the greatest privileges of my life,” said Mr. Bloomberg at the event, which was first held the day before he was sworn in as mayor in 2002 in the days after 9/11.
With a subtle lump in his throat and occasional crack in his voice, Mr. Bloomberg thanked the handful of commissioners and deputy mayors in attendance and celebrated the city’s diversity–after quoting a recent speech by the Pope.
“The fact that a Jewish kid can quote the Pope in a secular building built by protestants in front of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh leaders, really, I think, says all you need to know about New York City,” he said with a smile, ending his speech with words of hope.
“We are leaving the next administration a great hand to play and I think the best days for New York City are still to come,” he told the crowd, which greeted him and sent him off with extended standing ovations of loud applause.
As he left the building, Mr. Bloomberg took his final questions from waiting reporters, who trailed him to his waiting black SUV.
“If this doesn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what would,” he said when asked whether his departure was bittersweet. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It’s going to be another day and a better day. I’ve always believed that. But I’ve been very lucky. I’ve worked with an awful lot of the people in this room for the last 12 years and they’re the ones that really make a difference.”
“It’s been a wonderful 12 years,” he added.
Asked what he wanted to be remembered for, the mayor replied: ”Being an honest person. I think honestly and compassion are the things you want people.”
“I keep urging everybody to try to devote some of the time, their money, their counsel, to helping the people. It’s been a very rewarding 12 years,” he continued. “I’ll look back on it for the rest of my life, and I’ll be able to say to my kids, ‘Your father tried to do something to make your life and your children’s better.”
Were there any parts of the job he would miss least? ”Well, it’s certainly not talking to you. I look forward to talking to you every day,” he replied in his signature sarcasm.
And Mr. Bloomberg, who has always prided himself for being the first to arrive at work in the morning and the last to leave the building, explained why he was choosing to make his final departure from the building this afternoon at 4:45 p.m.
“Why am I leaving at 4:45? ‘Cause I’ve got a party to go to tonight and I want to go home and run maybe,” he said. “But I will still be on-call ’til 11:59:59.”