Just when the good citizens of the Big Apple thought that their mayor simply could not out do himself in terms of his propensity for giving to others; for imparting his resources in the name of higher cause, it turns out that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has done just that. His recent landmark donation of $350 million to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (his beloved alma mater) will go down in the annals of philanthropic rectitude as it marks a historic lifetime donation to the school of over $1 billion. No other person on planet earth has ever donated an amount of this size to a US university.
As New Yorkers, what lessons can we learn from this stellar paradigm of largesse? As we know, Mayor Bloomberg came from humble beginnings and was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He worked his way through his undergraduate days at JHU and took out student loans. His first donation to JHU was the year after he graduated. In 1965, he gave them $5. When he first moved to New York City in 1966, the mayor slept on a couch before he found his first tiny apartment. He recently said, “I used to sleep on a couch sometimes, where you’d open the couch up and it was a pain to take the pillows off and everything and then open it up and make the bed.”
Exceptionally grateful to have been granted the opportunity to attain a higher education, he is now giving back in spades, teaching us all that what we receive in our lives is a blessing and we must never forget people, places and institutions that have helped us along the way. You can argue, however, that Mayor Bloomberg is a man of substantial means and can certainly afford to donate an amount of this size, but if one gives this any thought, we know that he is under no obligation to do so. He has done so because he is quite cognizant of the fact that many well deserving students simply cannot afford the staggering costs of a university education and much of what he has contributed will help underwrite hefty scholarships.
Moreover, it was reported that the Mayor’s decisions in the governance department of New York City have been informed by the latest teachings and meticulous research done in the hallowed halls of Johns Hopkins. As a person who appreciates the sheer magnitude of how a superior education can impact the world in such a positive manner, it is Mayor Bloomberg. We also heartily applaud the 70-year old mayor for establishing a charitable foundation that will disperse his net worth of $25 billion to worthwhile causes, as the mayor has said that he wishes to leave an indelible mark on this world by giving it all away before he dies.
As the mayor approaches the end of his third term in office, we can reflect on all that he has done for our fair city. As with all elected officials, he has his share of vocal detractors, but let’s begin with some basic truths. He has saved New York City a substantive sum of money as he takes no salary for an often thankless occupation nor are the taxpayers burdened with expenses needed for the upkeep of Gracie Mansion as he lives in his own apartment. We will appreciate that fact when future mayors will not be in a financial position to do the same.
Let’s recall the massive improvements to New York’s infrastructure that have taken place since the mayor has been in office, as well as his prodigious efforts to balance the city budget, thereby saving the taxpayers their hard earned dollars. One need only take a glance at the dramatically declining crime statistics and the overhaul in the efficiency of every day services that we often take for granted.
In the calamitous aftermath of the worst storm in the history of the city (Hurricane Sandy), Mayor Bloomberg stepped up to the proverbial plate, displaying his leadership skills as he deftly coordinated with an array of city agencies to ensure that New York residents had shelter when their dwellings and their lives were irreparably damaged. And he carried it all off with a great deal of aplomb, considering the emotional paralysis that had gripped us all. The devastation was mind numbing, yet within a week the mass transit system was fully functioning while schools and businesses were up and running.
Subsequent to the horrifying mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that took the lives of 20 children and six adults, once again the mayor made international headlines as he personally spearheaded a campaign for stricter gun control legislation and worked with Governor Cuomo on this issue. As mayor, Bloomberg witnessed way too many shootings here in New York and visited way too many police officers and civilians in hospitals, their lives hanging in the balance, as a result of guns winding up the hands of the wrong people. His “Mayors Against Guns” campaign drew an inordinate amount of flack from the gun rights lobbyists and advocates but he never faltered or acquiesced to the pressure.
Yes, Mayor Bloomberg has rightfully earned a prestigious place in the pantheon of New York City mayors. For what he has accomplished and for much, much more we say our hat is off to you Mr. Mayor. Your inspiration will live on !!