Bill de Blasio: The moral call for equality

Story highlights

  • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio: Pope Francis is the world's most powerful critic of inequality
  • De Blasio says his administration is working to dismantle factors that create a tale of two cities

Bill de Blasio is the mayor of New York City. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Sometimes, history sneaks up on you. And sometimes you know it's coming.

I'm just one of the millions of New Yorkers eagerly anticipating Thursday's arrival of Pope Francis, which is sure to be one of the most extraordinary, and extraordinarily joyous, moments in the history of our city.
His holiness is more than just the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics -- he's a formidable voice for the millions of people who for decades have been left out or left behind.
    Bill de Blasio
    Pope Francis has excoriated an economic system that operates on "the mentality of profit at any price," blind to how working families struggle every day -- even as the wealthiest among us grow wealthier still. And he has envisioned a radical shift in the way the whole world does business to address forcefully the existential threat of climate change.
    He has a powerful vision of a different kind of world -- an inclusive world, rooted in fairness and respectful of our common humanity. And he's not simply commenting on the state of affairs -- he is calling on all of us, from heads of state to the average citizen, to take action.
    He's urging us to make the changes we need to protect our earth, and to treat all people with compassion and dignity -- putting into action his belief that "money must serve -- not rule."
    This is how Pope Francis has become the world's most powerful critic of the inequality that undermines societies across the globe.
    And this is also the spirit that is driving us to action.
    In the United States, a coalition of progressive leaders introduced in May the Progressive Agenda, a 14-point plan that calls for change at the federal level to even the playing field for all Americans. We can do this by raising the minimum wage, passing comprehensive immigration reform and demanding millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share in taxes by closing the carried interest loophole and the CEO tax loophole.
    In New York, we are bringing the Progressive Agenda to life as we can, and our families are feeling the floor lift beneath them. More than 65,000 4-year-olds are now enrolled in free, full-day pre-K, and half a million more New York workers can now take a day off to care for themselves or a sick family member without fearing they'll lose their jobs.
    And our efforts to fight inequality go deeper and further -- to building 200,000 affordable apartments, enough to house half a million New Yorkers, and launching IDNYC to bring more than half a million undocumented residents out of the shadows.
    Our long-term blueprint for the future, One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City, also reflects the belief that a strong, sustainable and resilient city must also be an equitable one. The plan includes ambitious goals: reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050, and lifting 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty by 2025, among others.
    There is no time to spare or to accept incremental changes. Today, almost half of New Yorkers live near or below the poverty line. Almost 12,000 of our families with children are living in shelter -- and in 30% of those families, one adult has a job.
    They, and so many other New Yorkers, are fighting with all their might against the economic factors that have created the tale of two cities that my administration is working every day to break down.
    And, as Pope Francis has reminded us -- by providing sleeping bags to those spending the night on the street, meals at the Vatican for those who go hungry, and personal, unannounced visits to those who are desperate -- these and all people without a home are human beings, not faceless burdens.
    We work to honor the Pope's universal recognition of the humanity in all of us, and bring to life in New York the kind of equitable society that expresses our highest ideals.
    It's a society where every child receives an education that sets him or her on a path to success, no matter the ZIP code. Where immigrants are welcomed and recognized for their contributions to our society. Where our most vulnerable are given a chance to escape poverty and access to health care doesn't depend on the size of one's paycheck. A society where we treat the Earth as though our survival depends on it.
    We can't wait for Pope Francis to share that vision firsthand with millions of New Yorkers of every background, faith, religion and income. And we hope for a moment of profound unity among us all, a moment of boldly and courageously confronting the challenges that face us.
    We know history is on its way to New York City. Let's use it to push forward real change, in American society, and politics -- for all of the great people of this city and this nation, not just the lucky few.