Last year, when it was time to move up to Gracie Mansion from our cozy Brooklyn home, one of my jobs was packing up your childhood books. I did my best to stay focused on the task at hand, but so many of those books were just begging me to turn their pages, and I could not always resist. I reacquainted myself with An Enchanted Hair Tale by Alexis De Veaux, which was one of Chiara’s favorites. I zoomed through Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, which my mother—your Grandma Kat—gave to Dante. And I re-read my favorite passages from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, which I first read in college and was so excited to pass on to you.
We didn’t have a lot of extra money when you were young, but Dad and I never stinted on your library, and that investment has paid off many times over. Both of you have grown into such brilliant and curious young adults. Dante, you have your own library now, filled with heavy tomes by philosophers whose names I can barely pronounce. This would be impressive for any 17-year-old, but I still remember your early struggles with reading. You worked through that challenge with a quiet determination I have come to cherish. And Chiara, you have developed into a beautiful writer with a rich vocabulary that you deploy with a verve that I both admire and envy. I don’t know if you notice, but your creativity often leaves me speechless. It is a gift that will serve you well in every endeavor.
But what makes me truly proud is that both of you are putting your knowledge and creativity to good use. Dante, I often think back to the day when one of your elementary school teachers pulled me aside to thank me for raising such a thoughtful and sensitive boy. When it was time to pair students up for walks or projects, she often teamed you with her most difficult students. She saw that you had a special gift for calming disruptive behavior and also mediating arguments—a skill you have put to good use as the captain of your high school’s prize-winning debate team. Chiara, you’re never afraid to jump into the middle of a conversation and take it in a bold new direction. Watching you establish yourself as a fierce advocate for young people who are grappling with mental health issues has been a revelation. I am honored to be your partner on that campaign, and I can’t wait to see where we end up.
All of this brings me to the one item on my wish list for Mother’s Day. My hope is that both of you will use your gifts to help create a more just and equal world. As the children of a brown mother and white father, you have a unique perspective on the challenges facing our nation. You know what it means to be left out, and you know what it means to have privilege. Over the course of your lifetime, you have seen the gap between those at top and those at the bottom stretch wider and wider. But you have also seen that change is possible when people come together to advance the common good.
It will ultimately be up to you and your peers to fulfill the promise of a movement toward equality whose roots are intertwined with your own family tree. I have every reason to believe that both of you will exceed my expectations. You always have. Being your mother has been a long series of joyful surprises, a constant reminder that there is no greater force in this world than love. I’m reminded of a particularly beautiful passage from The Velveteen Rabbit:
Dante and Chiara, thank you for making me Real. It is a gift I can never repay—but I will never stop trying.
McCray is the First Lady of New York