Brandon Johnson’s Inaugural Speech: Memorable Moments

By now, you may have heard that Brandon Johnson took everybody to church and beyond with his inauguration address on Monday. Before a sold-out crowd at Credit Union 1 Arena, Johnson demonstrated that he was indeed the son of a preacher.

He displayed raw emotion, humor, reverence and passion during his 40-minute speech. He also included a few verses from the Good Book.

Here are some of the more memorable moments from Johnson’s speech (in no particular order):

Praise for Lori Lightfoot

The newly sworn-in mayor took time to note the accomplishments of the person he is replacing as the city’s 57th mayor. He highlighted Lightfoot’s history-making moment when she was sworn in four years ago as the first Black woman and openly gay person to be Chicago’s mayor.

And in doing so,” Johnson said, “she broadened the imagination of so many young people across this city, including my daughter.

Lori, I am grateful to you for your service and sacrifice.

First Lady Stacie Johnson Makes History

Johnson lets it be known who the real history-maker is in the family.

Of course, you know I’ve got to brag a little bit about my wife. Because I may be the one getting inaugurated, but Stacie is the one making history today as the first Black First Lady in the history of Chicago. Stacie, your love and care for Chicago is only dwarfed by your love for our family.

Cheers erupted throughout the arena.

The “Soul of Chicago”

The phrase would serve as a reference point throughout Johnson’s address to highlight Chicago’s diverse communities, their historic contributions to the city and their need to unify.

There is something special about this city. I like to call it the soul of Chicago…It is alive in each and every one of us here today. And it’s always been the strong and the heart of everyone who has ever called this land home. I’m talking about the soul of Chicago. 

It’s alive in the hearts of the Miami, the Salk, the Potawatomi who lived on this land for centuries. The soul of Chicago sent a Black Haitian man named Jean Baptiste Point du Sable to establish a city at the mouth of the Chicago River.

It was alive in the hearts of tens of thousands who arrived here in the Great Migration, including my grandparents, who came to Chicago in search of a home. They injected the soul, the rhythm combined with the traditions of the South, like the blues, and, of course, a new cadence, making Chicago the center of both Black enterprise and Black freedom struggles.

Johnson’s tribute to Aréanah Preston

During one of the speech’s more somber moments, Johnson addresses the tragic death of Preston, a 24-year-old Chicago police officer murdered after coming home from work. He paralleled Preston’s parents’ pain to the kind the parents of 13-year-old Adam Toledo felt. Toledo was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer in 2021.

The tears of Adam Toledo’s parents are made in the same sorrow as Officer Preston’s parents. Officer Preston’s tragic death at the age of 24 just last week reminds us of what’s at stake.

She joined the Chicago Police Department for the very same reason that I ran to become the next mayor of the City of Chicago. She believed that through public service, she could be a conduit for justice. 

To the family of Officer Preston, my heart is with you, and know that it will be with you every step of the way. Thank you for sharing your extraordinary daughter with the city of Chicago. 

The “Payment Plan” comment

Johnson might be a man of the working people of Chicago in this particular way. Check out what he had to say about oppressive fees and payment plans.

We have a structural deficit, and we have to invest in people. And we have to do it without breaking the backs of working people with fines, fees and property taxes. You can’t make people feel bad because they have a payment plan.

You can stop someone with a payment plan from becoming mayor of the city of Chicago. Oh, my help is coming this morning.

“Go ‘head, Black man!”

One of the funnier moments occurred mid-address when Johnson got interrupted by a spirited audience member.

Johnson again elaborated on the “Soul of Chicago” by highlighting his link with Illinois Rep. Delia Ramirez, the daughter of working-class Guatemalan immigrants.

I’m talking about the soul of Chicago because that same soul spurred two immigrants from Guatemala to Humboldt Park, where they raised a daughter named Delia Ramirez, who would grow up to make our city proud as a member of the United States Congress.

Congresswoman Ramirez was born in the same public hospital where I, a child of the Great Migration, received life-saving asthma treatment. I’m talking about the soul of Chicago. That, my friends, is the rich soul of Chicago. That soul is what strikes me today.

“Go ‘head, Black man!” a man shouted from the audience, provoking a litany of chuckles.

To which Johnson responded, “Boy, Westsiders are everywhere!”

“If you didn’t know, now you know,” he said as the crowd chanted with him.


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