Good afternoon and welcome to the City of St. Louis.
Five years ago, I would have been annoyed that three people in the fifth row were looking at their phones when I stood up to speak. It is a true sign of the time in which we live that I am now delighted that you are actually updating your Facebook and tweeting my remarks. And, in fact, I want to encourage you all to follow me on Twitter, which was developed by a St. Louisan named Jack Dorsey who carries a Key to this city when he travels.
I have been asked not to use these welcoming remarks to discuss St. Louis's bid for the 2012 Democratic National Convention. So, I will NOT mention our strong enthusiasm for doing so, or the infrastructure and amenities we already have in place, or the fact that we have been throwing great parties here in French, Spanish, German, and English for 250 years, or the fact that the long-long-range forecast for the Summer of 2012 is for weather just like today's.
The city in which you are meeting this week is a diverse one. There are 79 very different, very distinctive neighborhoods in the City of St. Louis itself and another 90 or so municipalities in the Missouri county that is on our western boundary. As one of the nation's only two cities-not-within-a-county, our compact 66 square miles and our close relationships to an adjacent state and to our more conventionally organized neighbors will keep the political scientists among you pretty busy.
You will not have to go far to visit our history. The Eads Bridge, which is still in use and which many of you can see from your hotels, was the longest arched bridge in the world when it was built in the 1860s. It sits in the shadow of Eero Saarinen's Gateway Arch and adjacent to the Old Courthouse and the Old Cathedral, both of which were designed by the same architects; and by the Old Post Office.
By public transportation, you are minutes from one of the country's largest municipal parks, an acclaimed Art Museum, a top symphony, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, a top botanical research garden, and one of the world's top free zoos.
If you look at us on a block by block basis, St. Louis is one of the most racially-integrated cities in the US. Like the rest of the country, we have plenty more to say and to do, but we have made important progress together of which we are proud.
We are a little more blue than a lot of our swing-state of Missouri and we are a LOT bluer than some parts of it. The City of St. Louis proudly carried strong majorities for our Democratic President and for our Democratic Governor; and we helped provide the winning statewide margin for our Democratic US Senator, Claire McCaskill.
We also voted AGAINST the state's recent Constitutional amendment that made same-sex marriages extra-illegal, and FOR bond and tax measures that fund affordable housing and modern public schools in the city. And we were the only jurisdiction in the entire state that voted earlier this month to support the President's health care reforms.
I want to tell you a few quick things about us. St. Louisans are passionate baseball fans. We're hard workers. We're spoiled by our great network of public parks and our growing miles of bike trails and lanes. We're proud of our history and the cultures in which we were raised. We happily share our favorite places. And, although we have butchered the pronunciations of street and place names in several languages, we do not mind giving directions to strangers.
We're a green City, in a very interesting sense of the word. Besides sitting at the confluence of two great rivers and atop some of the country's best clay for bricks, St. Louis is blessed with many un-natural resources. Much of our infrastructure (including, unfortunately, large sections of our sewer system) dates back to the 1800s. They are buildings with strong bones and unusually beautiful exteriors. We have tried, most recently with funding freed up by President Obama's successful economic recovery programs, to re-use them all. Structures that used to house factories and warehouses are now home to young adults, empty nesters, family pets, families with school-age children, and people who like to live, work, and play in urban neighborhoods, made safer by funding through recovery programs authorized by the critically important Democratic majorities in the US House and the US Senate.
I want to leave you with four thoughts to have while you walk past the Gateway Arch every day on your way to your meetings.
The first is that the grounds you see are currently the subject of a major international design competition that will, we hope, reconnect the Arch to downtown and the city to the river.
The second is that most of the St. Louis and Missouri Democrats who are your hosts this week shared an extraordinary moment in 2008 when we stood 80,000 strong under the Arch in President Obama's largest outdoor campaign event.
The third is that the detours and construction cranes you encounter in our city are the positive signs of Democratic jobs stimulus programs.
And the fourth is simply a warning: in the unlikely event that the Arch trams break down while you are visiting the top, there are two staircases each totaling 1,076 steps that will get you down again.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the DNC hosting your summer meeting in St. Louis, and for your consideration of our City for 2012.