Mayor Bill de Blasio hopes that today’s performance of “To Kill a Mockingbird” at Madison Square Garden will inspire young people to join social justice causes, including the fight against climate change.
“These characters are presented with a profound challenge … and they have to decide if they have power or if someone is going to take their power from them,” said de Blasio to a crowd of 18,000 screaming middle school and high school students. The state rendition of Harper Lee’s classic is the first play to ever be performed in the “world’s most famous arena.”
“So, I ask you to think about this moment. This generation and all of you are facing some of the biggest challenges we have ever seen, especially the existential challenge of global warming… the only way to change the world is if you decide it is your world to change.”
The story follows three years in the life of Scout Finch, a white girl who lives in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Depression with her older brother Jem and father Atticus, a well-known lawyer. Scout learns about racism and its sad consequences after her father decides to defend Tom Robison, a black man unfairly accused of raping a white woman, despite threats from others in the town.
“This play is not just about some people living in the south decades ago, this play is actually about each and every one of you,” said de Blasio.
First Lady Chirlane McCray and filmmaker Spike Lee also hoped that the performance would inspire the young audience to either pursue the arts or to think about their place in the world.
“As you look at this play there a couple of questions I want you to think about,” said McCray. “I want you to think about the power of the individual to make a change in society. Do you believe that one person can make a change?”