Hakeem Jeffries, fresh off becoming the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, delivered his inaugural address at Fort Greene’s Brooklyn Technical High School on Sunday, and promised to fight for the causes affecting Brooklynites with his newfound power.
“No matter what responsibilities I will now have down in Washington, D.C., I want you to understand I will never walk away from you and I will always have your back,” Jeffries said.
“It has been the professional honor of my life to serve you in the United States Congress.”
Sunday marked Jeffries’ 10th inaugural address as a member of congress, and his first as the Democratic leader — a post he officially assumed on Jan. 7 to replace outgoing leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
The lifelong Brooklynite was sworn in as a member of the 118th Congress in Washington D.C earlier this year, but came back to his hometown for his community inauguration.
As a newly-crowned bigwig in the nation’s capital, Jeffries was joined in his ceremony by high-powered elected officials like New York State Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams, along with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, a fellow Brooklynite.
Jeffries won his reelection to New York’s 8th Congressional District last November, and was elevated to the post of House Minority Leader when Congress gathered to kickoff the new legislative session earlier this month.
Rep. Jeffries made history as the first Black lawmaker to lead a major party in Congress, and was unanimously elected to take over Pelosi’s former position by his Democratic colleagues.
He won every Democratic vote on 15 different ballots, while Republicans were scrambling to garner enough votes to install Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California as the Speaker of the House.
Should Democrats retake the majority in the lower chamber in future election cycles, Jeffries would be the odds-on favorite to hold the gavel as Speaker of the House.
Jeffries’ fellow lawmakers and electeds piled on endorsements of his character and ability to lead the Democratic Party, as well as to faithfull represent his district, which spans from Fort Greene to the southern coast of Brooklyn between East New York and Coney Island.
“Hakeem Jeffries has ascended to one of the most powerful positions in our nation,” said Gov. Hochul. “Don’t you have this sense that we’re going to be okay?”
Schumer, who has led the Democratic Party in the Senate since 2021, noted that Jeffries’ ascension represents a growing political power base in Brooklyn.
“It’s going to be even better in two years when Brooklyn has, not only the senate majority leader, but the speaker of the house as well,” said Schumer at the event. “I am so excited to work with him as the new Democratic Leader of the House.”
In his speech Jeffries addressed his goals to empower both the Brooklyn community he represents, as well as champion the party’s priorities nationwide.
“I can promise you [that we] are going to fight for lower costs, fight for better paying jobs, fight for safer communities, fight for affordable housing, fight for police reform,” Jeffries said. “[We are going to] defend democracy and protect public interest and ensure economic opportunity in every single zip code.”
He also specifically noted the John Robert Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would expand access to the ballot box for those that have been historically disenfranchised by onerous voter ID laws.
“One of these days we are going to pass the John Robert Lewis Voting Rights Act so we can end the era of voter suppression once and for all.”
The newly-minted power broker also emphasized that he and his colleagues in the Democratic Party were striving to make significant progress for a more unified government.
“We’re not going backwards, we are going to keep moving forward,” said Rep. Jeffries. “We are going to show up, we are going to speak up, we’re going to stand up and together our country is going to continue our long, necessary and majestic march towards a more perfect union.”