New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's press conference on monuments

Friday, May 19th
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu gives a history lesson on the monuments that have been removed and discusses uniting the city.

Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Good afternoon everybody. Thank you office joining me today. Jamaat lovely wife my First Lady. Couple days and married thirty years. Do you love the City Council members to talking Kaymer woods that was a beautiful rendition vineyard that. Really nice. Representing the men and women of the New Orleans Police Department Homeland Security EMS. All of individuals who have done it really hard work over the last. Month. Under very difficult circumstances and so chief Harrison and Tim McConnell and our entire team. At City Hall who are here today. And it particularly. Glenda and marry who was sitting at the front desk of City Hall that has received all the warm glass. I think they'll watching right now but before I came over here I asked Mary how we were doing. She said well achieve. She said they college everything but it Johnny got. To Matt Bailey. And to. US Marine Corps retired lieutenant colonel ratio Westmoreland who have been there every step of the way on behalf of the United States of America thank you for being strong. A past England's all the ministers. Who prayed and gave us strength. To keep it classy. From the plessy family. It brings our history. From where it was to where it is today. And along with the Ferguson family who are not here but mistreated what. Reconciliation really looks like. The descendants of Georgetown slaves. And. Should the New Orleans freedom riders Diane Nash could make it today the Claude Reese. Is here. Who was given around the thank you all for coming today. The soul of our beloved city is rooted in history. That is involved. Over thousands of years. Rooted and a diverse people who've been here together every step of the way through good and through bad. It is the history our history that holds in his heart. The stories of native Americans the chalked on the home on the chin a much. Hernando DeSoto Robin to validate. Sir Gillis out the Acadia easiest way knows the enslaved people. Of Senegal on the free people of color they Haitians the Germans. Both empires. Of France. And Spain. The Italians the Irish to Cubans are south and central Americans and Vietnamese. And some anymore. You see New Orleans is truly a city of many nations to melting pot. A bubbling cauldron of many cultures. There is no other place quite like it in the world. That's so eloquently exemplifies. The uniquely American motto you Florida's moon Odom out of many. We want. But also the truth about a city. That we must confront. New Orleans was one of America's largest labor market. A point where hundreds of thousands of Seoul's war bought sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lots of forced labor. Of misery. Of rape. And torture. America was a place where nearly 4000. Of our fellow Americans citizens well lynch 540. In Louisiana alone where hot courts enshrined separate pretty cool where freedom riders. Were beaten. To a bloody pulp. So what people. Say to me. That the monuments in question history. Well what I just described to you. Is not history as well. And it is. A searing truth. And it immediately begs the question. Why there are no slave ship monuments. No prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings obviously blocks nothing to remember this long chapter. Of our lives of pain of sacrifice of shame all of it happening on the soil. A New Orleans. So for those self appointed. Defenders. Of history. And the monuments. They are eerily silent on what amounts to historical. Malfeasance. A lie by omission. There is a difference you see between remembrance. Of history. And the reverence out. For America New Orleans. It has been a long and winding road marked by tragedy. And trial but we cannot. Be afraid of the truth. As president George W. Bush at at this at the dedication ceremony. For the national museum of African American history and culture and I quote. Our great nation does not hide its history it faces its flaws. And it corrects them. So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments. To the lost cause of the confederacy but also how and why this process can move us towards healing. An understanding each other so let's start. With the facts. The historic record is clear Robert elite Jeff Davis PGT borer guard statutes would not erected. To just honor these men. But as part of a movement which became known as the cult of a lost cause this cult had one goal and one goal only. Through monuments and through other means to rewrite history to hide the truth. Which is that the confederacy. Was on the wrong side of humanity. First directed at 166. Years after. The founding of our city's nineteen years after the civil war. These monuments that we took element to rebrand. The history of our city. And the ideals of the confederacy. It is self evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America. They fought against it. They may have been warriors but in this cause. There we're not patriots. These statutes are not just stone and metal that I just innocent remembrances of all but nine history. These monuments celebrating fictional sanitize confederacy ignoring the death ignoring the insulate that ignoring the terror. That it actually stood for. And after the civil war these monuments were part of that terrorism as much as burning across on someone's lawn. They were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in the shadows about who was still in charge. In this city. Now should you have. Goals of the confederacy. In a very weeks before the war broke out the vice president of the confederacy. Alexander Stephens made it very clear that the confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy. In his now famous cornerstone speech. He said. That the confederacy is cornerstone rests upon the great truth. That the negro is not equal to the white man that's slavery subordination to a superior race is his natural. In his normal condition. This I would new government he said. Is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical philosophical. And moral truth. Now. With these shocking words still ringing in your ears. I want to try to gently peel your hands. From the grip on this false narrative of my history that I think weakens us and make straight a wrong turn that we made many years ago. So we can look closely connect with the integrity to the founding principles of our nation and forging clear straight a path towards a better city. And towards a more perfect union. Now last year President Obama echoed these sentiments. About the need to contextualize. And you'll remember all of my history he would call a single piece of stone. A slave auction block and raised with a marker commemorating a single moment. It 1830. When Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay stood and spoke from it. President Obama said. Consider what this artifact tells us about history. On a stone where day after day for years. Men and women. Balance and bought sold and bit like cattle on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand bare feet. And for a long time the only thing we consider it important to singular thing. We chose to commemorate S history with a plaque. What aren't memorable speeches. Of these two powerful man. They piece of stone. One stone. Both stories history one story told one story forgotten. Or maybe even purposefully. Ignored. Now it's clear as it is for me today. For a long time even though I grew up in one of New Orleans is most diverse neighborhoods. Even with my family's proud history of fighting. For civil rights. I must have passed by these monuments thousands of times without giving them a second thought. So I'm not judging anybody. I'm not judging people we all take our own journey on race. I just hope people listen like I did when my dear friend Wynton Marsalis. Helped me see the truth. He asked me to think about all the people who have left New Orleans. Because of our exclusionary attitudes. Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments. From the perspective of an African American mother a father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter out why Robert. Of our city. Can you do it. Can you do it. Can you look into the eyes of this young girl and convince our that Robert. Do you think that she feels inspired. And hopeful by that story. Do these monuments help Percy her future with limitless potential have you ever thought. Have you ever thought that of her potential is limited. Yours. And my potential my limited potential as well. We don't know the answers to these very simple questions. When you look into this child's eyes as the moment when this searing truth comes into focus this is the moment. When we know what we must do. When we know what is right. We cannot walk away. From this truth. Now I'm really taken down these monuments was going to be tough. But you elected me to do the right thing not an easy thing. And this is what. That looks like. So relocating these monuments is not about taking something away from someone else this is not about politics is not about blame it's not about retaliation. This is not about a night eve quest to solve all of our problems at once. This is however. About showing the whole world that we as a city that we as a people. Are able to acknowledge. To understand to reconcile. And more importantly choose a better future for us cells making straight what has been put it and making right what was wrong. Otherwise we will continue to pay a price would this court. With division. And yet violence. So literally put the confederacy on a pedestal. It now more prominent places. In honor. Isn't an accurate recitation of awful past is an affront to our present it is a bad prescription for a future. History cannot be changed it cannot be moved like a statute what's done is done the civil war is over the confederacy lost. And we better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the confederacy was wrong. And in the second decade of the 21 century asking African Americans or anyone else for that matter to drop by property that they own. Occupied by reverential statutes of men who fought to destroy the country. And denied that person you manage he seems perverse. It seems absurd. Century old wounds are still raw because you see they never healed right. In the first place. So here is the essential truth. We are bad act together. Then we are apart into visibility is our essence isn't this the gift. That we the people of New Orleans have given to the world we radiate beauty and grace enough food in our music. In architecture in our joy of life in a celebration of death in everything that we do. We gave the world this funky thing college adds. It is the most uniquely American art form that has developed across the ages. And from different cultures. Think about. Second line's big about Mardi Gras think about an awful lot of things about the saints think about gumbo think about rebbe is right I got just think. All we hold dear is create about throwing everything in the pot creating producing something better. Everything everything a product of I historic diversity. We are proof that out of many we don't want any data far out of many we don't want and we really do love it. And yet. And yet we still find so many excuses. To not do the right thing. President Bush's words once again a great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them. We forget we deny how much we really depend on each other how much we really need each other. We justify Alice silence and inaction by manufacturing. Noble causes that marinate in historic. Denial. We still find a way to say wait wait. Wait. Not so fast. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said. Wait. Is almost always. Met never. We cannot wait any longer we need to change. And we need to change now no more waiting this is not just about statuettes this is about attitudes. That's about behaviors as well if we take down these statutes and don't change to become a more open. An inclusive society than all of this would have been in vain. While some have driven by these statutes. Every day and not a review of their beauty. Off failed to see them at all many of my neighbors and our fellow Americans see them very very clearly. Many of painfully aware of the long shadows their presence cast not only literally. But figuratively. And they clearly received the message of the confederacy and the cult of a lost cause was intended to deliver. Earlier this week is a cult of the loss cost actually PG she bore gore came down were renowned musician surge which is where this. Stood watch with his wife Robert in the two beautiful daughters at that side. You see Terrence went to school. On the edge of city park.