Ravens legend Ray Lewis was honored Saturday with a parade in downtown Baltimore. For coverage of the event, go here. Below is a transcript of his speech at City Hall, which lasted about nine minutes.
“Baltimore! Baltimore, we in the building, baby. We in the building. Baltimore took me in at 19 years old. I was a 19-year-old child when I walked into this city, and now I'm a full-grown man.
“This city, this city will forever be a part of me. I've been in this city long as I've been born. So this is my home forever. And Baltimore, Baltimore, listen to me closely, as I stand close to both of my daughters, both of my queens, the reason I live, the reason I fight.
“But this city, I believe truly in my heart — Mayor [Catherine] Pugh knows this — I believe I'm just getting started. Football was one thing. But what I'm willing to do, and I'm doing in this community, Power52 is on both sides of me. Power52, what we’re doing, we’re going to change the scope of our city.
“Our city is about love. Our city is about hope. Our city is about faith. All things are possible. And when you understand that no weapon formed shall prosper — it may form, but it cannot prosper — today is a new day.
“If today is Ray Lewis Day, imagine God smiling right now. Imagine all the things they said I couldn't do. There's a child in this audience — there's people who've given up hope. I'm begging you not to give up hope. I'm begging you to hold on to it just long enough, because people believe in you.
“Baltimore, do me this one favor. Just repeat after me: ‘We are Baltimore.’ ‘We are Baltimore.’ ‘We love each other.’ ‘We love each other.’ Let's raise our children, let's raise our children to feel that.
“Today is so special for me because it's something that I've dreamed for as a child. My whole life, I told my daughters my whole life, when we sat around the bed and recited our Father's prayer, I used to always tell them that if you start something, finish it. Finish the race.
“When I walked into the [Pro Football] Hall of Fame and I looked back over the city of Baltimore, what everybody tries to say about us — yeah, everybody got bad — but this is a family I will never trade in. Never. A lot of other players put on other colors. A lot of other players go to different teams. But let me tell you something: I don't care who it is. I don't care how much money they got. They can never get me to put on another jersey. Never. Never.
“Baltimore, Baltimore, what we created together, what we created together will last an eternity. It will last an eternity. Listen. Listen closely to me. Baltimore Ravens, everybody that’s got on purple here today, imagine this. Imagine this. Imagine this: Just raise your hand, everybody, please. Just imagine this: This is all I’m going to ask us to do. Every time we see somebody, can we touch somebody to display love. Can we just give a hand of love, just turn to the person you don't know and just give them a hug?
“Baltimore, we are a city of love. Yeah, hug each other, baby! I’m gonna give all y’all a hug. Just open up everybody’s hands right now. Give me love. Absolutely.
“Listen, I want to thank you guys today because as a father, as a father, a father's greatest journey is to leave a legacy that his kids want to follow. But Baltimore, I’ve got so many mothers out in the crowd. I've got so many sisters. I've got so many brothers. I've got so many children. And to hear every word that came out of everybody's mouth was, ‘I love you, Ray.’ Well, guess what, Baltimore? I love you, too, man. I love you.
“People don't know this, and I won't tell — y’all are the first crowd I’m telling this. People say, ‘Do you live in Baltimore?’ I never left Baltimore. I just don't let people know where I'm going. But I never left Baltimore because there's something about this city. There's something about who we are as a family, who we are as people.
“I'm telling you, don't just let this be Ray Lewis Day. Let this be a new way that we start to create different ways and different paths for our kids. Everybody wants to be loved. There’s three phases that people want to be: They want to be fed, they want to be loved and they want to be hugged. No matter if you’re young or old, we owe it to our community, we owe it to our future, and what the Baltimore Ravens did for me, they gave me an opportunity.
“I came in, and somebody's in this crowd that they’ve told they’re too small, they can't play in this league. I heard those same words. Fox45, Channel — all my people, all my people who’s covered me over all of the years, thank you. Thank you, because the story we told, if God is for you, who can be against you?
“Mayor Pugh, Mayor Pugh, thank you. Thank you. When she called me to put on this parade, she said, ‘I want to do something special for you.’ And I want to thank this woman, because she is putting boots on the ground to try to make this city a better place.
“But together, together, together, together, I will not let you guys leave here without installing one thing in our hearts right now. We must walk in love, and we must do everything together. Everything must be done together. God's greatest mission was to love thy neighbor as thyself. But don’t just love them as thyself. Teach them what love is. Sometimes somebody’s got to be taught how to love. Everybody don’t know how to love, but sometimes we just got to stop passing by people in the crowd, stop staring down at your phones and pay attention to people.
“We can start something in Baltimore, and it can spread across the nation. Imagine if we are able to come together to lower our crime rate. Imagine if we can come together and clean up our streets. Imagine if we become the pioneers of what you're supposed to live like.
“Let’s make our city — I’ll tell you what we will do, Mayor Pugh. I’ll tell you what we will do, and she already knows this. Every day on Sept. 22, every day from this moment forth, we will find a different way to create this same environment, to make sure we hold each and every one of us accountable, to make sure we’re loving each other.
“Kids, kids, kids, obey your parents. Kids, ‘Yes, ma’am,’ is ‘Yes, ma’am.’ ‘No, sir,’ is ‘No, sir.’ It’ll never change. And if you don’t do nothing else, pick up a bible. Just pick up a bible one time. B-I-B-L-E: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Study it enough, study it enough, give God who you are, let go and let God.
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“But today, I want to say this from my heart: Baltimore, you’ve given me everything I could ever ask for in life, and I owe it to you to give you my life in return to make this city a better place. Baltimore, I love you forever. Baltimore!”