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Read Denver Mayor Mike Johnston’s full inauguration speech

Johnston was sworn in as Denver's 46th mayor along side a supermajority of women for Denver City Council
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Posted at 9:52 PM, Jul 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-17 23:52:00-04

Below is the inauguration speech delivered by Denver's 46th mayor, Mike Johnston, in its entirety. For a breakdown of the speech, head here.

Thank you. I haven't done anything yet, just starting. Thank you all so much for being here.

Such an extraordinary celebration of the city. Would you take a minute, please? And just enjoy and revel in the incredible gifts and diversity and talents of what this city council brings as a sign of a vibrant, powerful, diverse government - welcome aboard.

We are honored to have several mayors here in whose footsteps I follow. I want to thank them so much for their mentorship and friendship; Mayor Federico Peña, who is here. Mayor Wellington Webb, who is here. Mayor/Senator John Hickenlooper, who is here. And of course, Governor Polis and Congresswoman DeGette, I think Attorney General Weiser and Secretary Griswold, Treasurer Young and all of our esteemed colleagues and friends, thank you so much for being here. And… most of all, to my wife, and my three kids, and my mother, Sally Johnson, who is here. Thank you.


There are moments that mark chapters in our lives, like a climber halfway to the summit, who stops to look out to see where we've come and where we still have to go. Who we have been, and who we still aspire to be.

The last time a new mayor took this oath 12 years ago, we could never have imagined the path that we'd have to have.

Some of us, over those years, had to watch our mothers take their final breath from the other side of a glass window, unable to hold their hands because the pandemic that was taking them might take all of us.

Some of us had to see a cousin stumble slowly into addiction, and then lose his home and his job and his family and then we had to shudder to wonder where he's sleeping or what he's doing to survive.

Some of us have waited, heart-racing too fast to breathe for a text back from a son who was inside a school with an active shooter; ‘Just, please God, text me that you're okay.’

We've given the last hug to a neighbor with her entire life packed in the trunk of her car as she drives out of Denver for the last time because no matter how many hours she worked, she couldn't afford to live in the neighborhood where she grew up.

And even as we face those struggles one day at a time, the very ground beneath us shifted as we climbed a country founded on the belief that good people can come together and solve hard problems, (we) saw our public discussion go from productive to combative. From optimistic to antagonistic. From hopeful to heartbroken. And those trials were tender for the fires of division, where every unsolved problem fueled the story that these problems were unsolvable, or that we had to wait for someone else to solve them. Instead of turning to each other, we turned on each other. Instead of reaching out a hand, we pointed a finger.

But today's question is not how we found ourselves here but how we find our way out of here, because what we know is that at our worst, we get caught in the cycle of American hurt. We face a hard challenge. We blame others. We sow division rather than building coalitions. We don't take strong action. We fail. The problem gets worse, then the hurt gets harder, the blame gets louder, the bonds of democracy get weaker, the dreams get smaller.

But at our best we build a cycle of American hope. We set ambitious dreams. We bring together broad coalitions, we take courageous action and we deliver steady small successes that everyday build our trust in our neighbors and build our faith in our ability to achieve big dreams. If we can integrate one bus line in Montgomery, then maybe, just maybe, we can integrate buses and schools and businesses for an entire country. If we can open up the franchise for a minute in one state, then maybe we can do it in all 50 states. If we can send a rocket into space, then maybe we can send a person to the moon. With each small success, our bonds grow tighter. Our progress grows steadier. Our belief grows stronger, and our dreams grow larger.

Nowhere is that cycle of hope more evident than it is here in Denver. We dreamed of a city at the base of a mountain range that once seemed uninhabitable. We survived the fire and a flood that twice devastated the city. We connected a railroad to the rest of the world,we built industries from the land and its resources, and then we reinvented ourselves over and over with new ideas, new innovations. And at each stage, big dreams matched with hard work and shared sacrifice led to his historic success. Now, Denver's ready for a new dream.

Our dream of Denver is that when you land at your lowest, without a job or a place to stay, shackled by addiction or struggling with mental illness, we will not judge you or abandon you. We will not give up on you. We will get you a home. We will get you help. We will get you healed. Our dream of Denver is a city that belongs to all of us. So if you serve this city - as a nurse or as a teacher or a waitress or a busboy or a bus driver - you can afford to live in this city and raise a family here every single day. Our dream of Denver is a city where you feel safe in every part of our city, so you can send your kids out to play in any neighborhood at any time of day and not once worry about their safety. Our dream of Denver is refusing to abandon our city center but instead promising to reimagine it as centers of commerce and culture, art and music where all of us can live and work and play to build industries that manifest the creativity of our diverse entrepreneurs that showcase what makes us different and what makes us Denver, in spaces where all of us feel seen and safe and celebrated. Our dream of Denver is that we build things that support the people that built them. Houses that house those who built them. Hospitals that serve those who serve us. Roadways that carry home to their own home, the hands that pave them. Our dream is a city that asks not only what we are building, but who we are building it for. How we're mindful - always - of building a city that serves those who have been left out of this city's successes for far too long. That is our dream of Denver.

So today... today, we dedicate ourselves to two essential American ideas: That every problem we face is solvable, and we are the ones to solve them.

Those of us on this stage took an oath today. But for us to succeed, every Denverite must take their own oath. An oath to dream, to serve and to deliver. To dream a Denver bold enough to include all of us. To serve our city above ourselves. And to march on shoulder to shoulder undeterred by failure until we deliver results. That is our oath.

Democracy is the simplest belief to explain and the hardest one to practice. At its essence, democracy is an act of love. Our instinct as people is often to reserve love for those closest to us, and reserve suspicion for everyone else. But the essence of democracy is that it calls on our ability to do something that feels unnatural: To love those who are different than us. To believe in them, to work with them, to sacrifice for them, to deliver for them. That is our dream of Denver. That is our promise to our people. That is our pledge to each other. That is how we put our arms around those stuck in a cycle of hurt. That is how we pull this city back into a cycle of hope. It is how we dream, serve and deliver Denver as America's best city.

Mike Johnston’s first speech as Denver mayor