Today, Philadelphia is a city divided between the rich and the poor, between hope and despair. But there is also a new climate in Philadelphia - a desire to work together to bring hope and opportunity to everyone, to make life better for all of Philadelphia's children, to make our streets safe, to provide affordable housing, and to work toward an end to homelessness.
At the heart of being a leader for all of Philadelphia is understanding the challenges faced by all Philadelphians.
Years ago, in Abbotsford public housing, I learned to work hard and grow up fast. We were hungry. A normal breakfast was powdered eggs and a glass of powdered milk. And macaroni and cheese with stewed tomatoes was a gourmet dinner.
I remember to this day a sound I will never forget: the sound of my mother crying herself to sleep at night because she didn't have enough food to feed her children. I'm running for mayor for my mother, who raised my brothers and me on the values of hard work, compassion, responsibility, self-discipline, and most importantly a belief in ourselves and what we could accomplish despite the odds.
Over the years I have been blessed. I met and married the love of my life, Linda. We raised two wonderful sons together - TJ and Brandon - and I have enjoyed business success beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
But I also have known the pain of losing my brother Mike far too young to the scourge of drugs. I am running for him and for every family threatened by drug abuse. I know how tough that fight is and how powerless a family can feel as a loved one falls under the influence of addiction. Michael's memory will guide me as mayor - not just in the fight against drugs, but in getting families the help they need to save a loved one before it's too late.
I am running for every citizen of Philadelphia who loves this city as much as I do - every citizen who is sick of the pay-to-play influence and corruption in City Hall, and of the massive debt that is once again growing out of control.
Philadelphia has great challenges: violence, a murder rate and a drug epidemic that threaten our neighborhoods, our families and our economy; unemployment; poverty; a high school-dropout crisis; truancy; lack of economic opportunity; mismanagement, corruption and out-of-control deficits; crumbling schools; and a city that fails to invest in its infrastructure, its future and its children.
I know what it's like to be written off. I know what it's like to feel that you don't have a chance in the world. I know what opportunity is, and how it can change a life, because it changed mine.