Mayor De Blasio And First Lady McCray At Dedication Of Unite Here Health Center

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De Blasio and First Lady McCray. File photo

First Lady Chirlane McCray: Hello, everyone. Hello, hello. You are so lucky to have this beautiful state of the art health center. And Betsy Gilbertson. I am so happy to be here for this opportunity – and not just because Betsy Gilbertson is family, but because Betsy is just one of those people who does everything 120 percent. That means looking after her loved ones and it means looking after a lot of other people too.

Over the years, Betsy and I have had our share of passionate conversations about healthcare, especially healthcare for our seniors. You know, Bill – Mayor Bill de Blasio – and I have cared for our mothers as they encountered the challenges of illness while aging and I have to tell you – I’ve always left those conversations so impressed by Betsy’s insight, her vision, her compassion, and the depth of her convictions – especially her belief that high-quality healthcare is a fundamental human right. And I can never forget the way she talks about our members. She says it with this – such a possession in her voice, such caring. And, again, you all are very lucky to have her.

I have to say that Betsy’s convictions are only one of the reason I admire her so much. I admire her because she’s so smart and because she cares but she also knows that convictions can only get you so far. In the end, you have to take care of business. So I consider this health center to be a great example of Betsy in action. As I’m sure she’d be the first to tell you, Betsy didn’t build the center by herself. All of you helped to make the center a reality. And all of you should be proud. But I think it’s safe to say that without Betsy, we probably wouldn’t be standing here today. And I can spend the rest of the afternoon singing her praises, but I don’t think the mayor’s going to allow that. So, with that, I’m going to say, thank you, Betsy, for all that you do. We really appreciate you. Thank you, everyone.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you. It is such an honor to be here and I just want to say – I first want to thank Bob. Bob, you are a great example of a leader who comes up from the grassroots and remembers where he came from and does something about it. So I just want to thank you. Let’s give him a round of applause for his leadership.

And my fellow mayor, Dawn Guardian, thank you for your support of this wonderful center.

Before I talk about how great an example this is and what it’s going to mean for working people, I just want to talk about Betsy’s supporting cast. Her chief advisor and grandson, Alonso, is here. Really Alonso had the concept for the center. He sketched it out with a crayon and Betsy followed through from there. And to Tom and Vinnie and Zoey, and the erstwhile John, my cousin – I have to say, there is no one in the world who likes to talk about Betsy more than John. Every time Betsy rises to the occasion and does something amazing at work, or does something amazing for her family, I say something like, Wow that Betsy is great, and then I hold the phone back for about 15 minutes while John testifies as to how great Betsy is, how lucky is, how he would’ve amounted to nothing without Betsy, and I say, you’re right, John. You’re right about that.

And Betsy is a marvel. And this is about – as she would be the first to say – this is about the working people of this town. This is about this union that she loves so much, that John loves so much. It’s about the bigger reasons we are here. But sometimes, an individual personifies those reasons. And when you think about it, what Betsy has dedicated her life to is the notion that people really do deserve healthcare.

Wait – we’ve got a – we’ve got a pacifier on the loose – security! …really that people deserve healthcare. They deserve quality healthcare. They deserve readily available healthcare and affordable healthcare. And it’s animated her whole life. And the beauty of Betsy – if you watch Betsy, it’s true – and this is a powerful reality when you know someone’s the real deal – that they do in their personal life, they do in their professional life, they do in their political life – there’s a perfect continuity with Betsy. And so, first of all, she does not take no for an answer real easily – and particularly when it comes to working people, she doesn’t take no for an answer.

So the notion that you can have the finest quality healthcare under one roof and make it good and easy and positive for people, like what it should be for all people in our country honestly; the fact that it could be created her in Atlantic City for the workers here – I’m sure along the way there were Doubting Thomas’s, I’m sure there were roadblocks, but Betsy is not someone who ever lets that stop her. And that’s what she’s devoted her career to – the notion that we have to do better and there are ways to do better and we’re going to find to a way. But I have to acknowledge that you often don’t get there unless you have one or more truly relentless, principled people, who are devoted to getting the job done. And that’s who Betsy is.

And anyone who knows her is affected really quickly by her integrity. And, by the way, I know a lot louder people. As you said, a lot of people in Jersey know how to talk a lot. People in New York know how to talk too. We’re very proud of that fact. Betsy doesn’t get where she gets by being loud or by being dominant or the person who speaks the most. She does it by example. And, I have seen it time and time again in our family – and certainly today is testament to the fact that sometimes just being right and being relentless and being honest and being energetic and telling people we’re not turning back – last time I checked, that’s the definition of leadership. And that’s what Betsy has done here.

So I want to amplify, as Chirlane said, so many people played a crucial role in this day being possible. And every one of you should be proud. And we do this – all of us do this work – to serve working people. And this is a great step forward for working people.

But I love the fact that this center is going to be dedicated to Betsy’s extraordinary work, because it’s also a reminder – it’s not just something that means so much to me as a member of her family – it’s a reminder that the folks who get things done – the real soldiers – the folks in the trenches, who just won’t give up – that’s the kind of person who deserves to be honored and is someone who can inspire us to even greater achievements on behalf of working people.

So, Betsy, you have made your whole family so proud. It’s not a surprise. It’s just you being you. But you are someone so special to all of us, and God bless you.


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