REMARKS OF SUFFOLK COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY DANIEL F. CONLEY:
BOSTON FOUNDATION STREETSAFE STREET WORKERS GRADUATION CEREMONY
Oct. 30, 2009
Thank you, Paul, for that introduction and for everything you’ve done that’s brought us to this point. As Mr. Grogan just told you, my name is Dan Conley. I’m the District Attorney here in Boston, and I oversee the office of prosecutors you’ll meet from time to time as you bring young people to court.
I’m here today to deliver two messages: First, to congratulate you on your graduation from the StreetSafe program. Second, to let you know that you are now part of something bigger – bigger than yourselves and bigger than a simple job and a paycheck.
You might not realize it, but with the responsibilities you are taking on, you are becoming a unique part of Boston’s history. You’re joining a long, proud, and storied group of abolitionists, urban planners, ministers, mediators, police, prosecutors, and other ordinary men and women who took on extraordinary duties to make Boston a better place – not for themselves, but for their children and grandchildren.
Even more importantly, you are now a key player in Boston’s future. The work you will do is not glamorous and it won’t make you wealthy, but it will make you rich in so many other ways. And you can take that from me because I’ve been a prosecutor for many years and prosecutors – whether you know it or not – are your brothers and sisters; kindred spirits who do important work, put in long hours for short pay, and who do it because the work is meaningful and important and makes a genuine difference.
On the stage with me are other kindred spirits, people who have also made their contributions to the history of this city and the tremendous progress we’ve made. They come from different walks of life and many have followed different career paths – Paul Grogan who now runs the Boston Foundation, is an urban planner and has helped to channel millions of Foundation dollars into non-profit community development corporations that have brought so many jobs and businesses and affordable housing to some of Boston’s poorest neighborhoods.
Robert Lewis, Jr. was literally working at street level like all of you when Boston began its first (but not last) historic efforts to prove that any neighborhood in any city could be made safer.
And, I would humbly add, even myself who served on the very first anti-gang task force in the late 1980′s that represented the first steps toward interagency cooperation among police, prosecutors, and the community.
All of us – different people from different backgrounds and different career paths and disciplines – had one thing in common: a belief that by law enforcement, community residents, faith-based leaders, economic and housing developers and social service providers all working together that we could rebuild, renew and make safe again neighborhoods that too many others had simply written off and abandoned.
Boston is already a markedly better city than it was in the late 80′s and early 90′s. Back then, homicides numbered in the mid-100′s and residents in certain neighborhoods could walk for miles in any direction and find plenty of vacant lots and abandoned housing but no banks, no supermarkets, no pharmacies, and none of the jobs that came with them.
Today, we – and this includes you – face a new set of challenges and we are meeting them at a time of unprecedented budget shortfalls. Public safety – one of the core functions of government – is not immune and my office has seen its budget fall significantly in recent years. As a result, we have significantly fewer people prosecuting cases and serving victims, and those who remain often find themselves confronting the same decisions some of you may have confronted: sticking with the meaningful work you love or moving on so you can afford your rent and support your families.
Even as our budget is cut to the bone, though, our determination to do good work is as high as it’s ever been. And this is one of the reasons I am such a fan of the StreetSafe initiative. It’s not just built on dollars! Dollars are important, but too many programs, if built on dollars alone, disappear when funding runs out. StreetSafe is really built upon the core principles that have always yielded the best and most enduring results: hard work, communication, cooperation and collaboration. Make no mistake; the Boston Foundation and the StreetSafe Initiative are bringing important resources to the table, but none more important than each of you.
As District Attorney, my prosecutors have already worked with and seen the work that your StreetSafe colleagues from last year’s class have done. We are impressed and we are excited to welcome you in as our newest partners to continue the hard work of making our neighborhoods better places to live and work.
While your work will literally be accomplished one young person at a time, I ask you to always remember that you are indeed a part of something bigger. You are a part of Boston’s history and the work you do – bringing safety, opportunity, and hope to Boston’s young people – will shape our City’s future. Thank you for choosing this work, congratulations, good luck, and God bless you all.