As is well-documented now, I’m no fan of our President. Like most people, I’m still waiting for him to lead the country – all of us – with intelligence and compassion. But I’m not holding my breath.
Trump did hit a single nail squarely on the head: In many ways, our country really is a disaster in need of recovery. You either thought that before the election, and that’s why you voted for Trump—or you think it now, because he won. Regardless of our disparate political leanings, a majority of Americans simply know in our bones that we’re in real trouble. We’re in the midst of a crisis that threatens to break us economically, politically, spiritually, and LITERALLY if we don’t start immediately solidifying our social fabric and improving our infrastructure. We’ve got to surgically restore the ideological and cultural vertebrae in our nation’s spine, which kept us standing for two and half centuries despite a lot of hard hits.
We need a logical planner—and a smart, sane, practical, compassionate plan.
My friend Charles Gargano’s the man with that plan. He’s been a laborer, civic leader, fundraiser, politician, and professional engineer. Charlie is perfectly positioned to recommend honest, plainspoken (if often revolutionary) solutions to our crises. He shows us how to turn the disaster scene our country risks becoming into a beacon of brilliance for which we can once again feel pride, to renew our role as true world trailblazers. Just as the “Freedom Tower” slowly rose under his leadership from the ashes of Ground Zero despite near-impossible odds, our country, too, can rise again. This is the best plan I’ve seen yet to make that happen.
I trust Charlie mostly because he was the first public official to grasp the necessity of getting the Tribeca Film Festival off the ground in the wake of 9/11, when Lower Manhattan desperately needed resuscitation. He was the first to show vision, and he executed on that vision. I’m proud to say that 15 years later, we’re now one of the largest and most important festivals in the world. But I’m prouder that our shared efforts restored the dying neighborhood I love.
But maybe Charlie and I connect on a deeper level. We both honor our immigrant heritage. We both believe that Emma Lazarus’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” built our countryFROM THE GROUND UP. They are our lifeblood, especially of our strong, diverse, and beautiful New York City. They gave us the power to prosper in the mid- ’70s when our government basically told us to drop dead. They gave us the strength to recover after the tragedy of 9/11. Now they’re giving us the inspiration persevere despite the current administration’s unprecedented campaign of divisiveness and hate.
None of us should sit idly by and hope everything will be all right. That’s not the American way. We have to work together and build the kind of country we want, FROM THE GROUND UP.
—ROBERT DE NIRO