Lori Lightfoot Delivers Emotional Farewell Speech

Mayor Lori Lightfoot did what any outgoing elected official would in a farewell speech: tout her accomplishments, thank her team and key stakeholders and highlight how her constituents benefited from her programs.

Yet, in her last week as mayor of the nation’s third-largest city, she also revealed the enormity of her challenges in guiding Chicago through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, something no other mayor in modern history had to face.

“There were certainly times when the sheer number of challenges mounted on top of each other brought me to my knees,” said Lightfoot during her 30-minute address. “You see, when you literally look death in the eye, as I had to, and realize that the decisions that you make, in the midst of a crisis, will impact who lives, who dies, what businesses survive, which fail, and who has income and who doesn’t — all of which were served up on my plate over and over again.”

She said those challenges pushed her closer to her faith and made her a better leader and person.

“I still remember the surreal feeling of learning about the city’s first Covid case,” Lightfoot said. “That first case notification made time stand still for me, just for a moment.”

“We had a lot of heartbreaking decisions to make throughout the pandemic that required selflessness and service from all leaders, essential workers, and really, every single Chicagoan.”

Lightfoot cited Chicago becoming the first big city to open safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic as an accomplishment. She also acknowledged the work of the city’s Racial Equity Rapid Response Team, which she credited with helping her administration problem solve and develop solutions to challenges posed by the pandemic.

She also thanked city officials Reshma Soni, Jennie Huang Bennett and Susie Park for helping the city get its “financial house in order.”

“Because of their hard work, we leave office with a budget surplus, 13 rating upgrades, prepaying our pensions even. A job well done, ladies.”

She also touted her administration’s success in generating economic development in underserved communities through her Invest South/West initiative, expanding the city’s budget for mental health programs and instituting a fines and fees reform program for residents.

Yet, Lightfoot said the story of her administration is told through the people of the Chicago. She provided the example of a woman who got her water bill slashed through a relief program. She acknowledged real estate developers who made impactful investments through INVEST South/West and two entrepreneurs who opened the thriving Bronzeville Winery, among others.

While expressing hope for the city’s future, she evoked a verse from James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to close out her address.

“Let us march on because our victory will be won,” she added

As for her future role as a Chicago citizen, “I will be here as private citizen Lightfoot, continually rooting for you and every resident of our city.”

“My work is not done,” she said. “I will roll up my sleeves in another form and fashion, but continue on.”

“God bless you, and God bless our city.”

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