Dante de Blasio Graduates from High School

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was propelled to office in part by a campaign ad featuring his son talking about racial injustice, spoke at the teenager's graduation ceremony on Friday and returned to that theme, imploring students not to give in to cynicism in the wake of the South Carolina church shooting.

"There's been tragic violence against black men and women in America," de Blasio said to the graduating class at Brooklyn Tech High School, which included his son Dante. "It's one of the many challenges we face and it's an example of the kind of choice each and every one of you ultimately gets to make."

"Do you resign yourself to a problem — a problem that's been with us for a long time — or do you see it as an opportunity to change things?" the mayor asked.

The question — at the forefront of the national conversation after a white gunman killed nine black church members Wednesday night — carries particular poignancy for the de Blasio family, and especially Dante, whose place in New York City political history is already assured.

His father, then a relatively obscure city official, was lagging in fourth place in the polls in the months leading up to the 2013 Democratic primary.

But as some of the leading candidates saw their bids collapse, the de Blasio team released an ad that changed the course of the campaign — and made Dante a household name across the five boroughs.

Bill de Blasio, a white man who is married to a black woman, had railed against what he deemed the overuse of stop and frisk, a police tactic that allowed officers to stop anyone they deemed suspicious. Its critics charged that it discriminated against black and Latino men.

But the argument really resonated when his teenage son, who identifies as black, made the same case.

"Bill de Blasio will be a mayor for every New Yorker, no matter where they live or what they look like, and I'd say that even if he weren't my dad," Dante said in the ad's voiceover.

Though Dante has largely stayed out of the public eye, he was at the center of another political debate last December.

After a grand jury declined to indict the white police officer who placed a black man in a fatal chokehold, the mayor publicly recalled having to warn Dante about the potential dangers of an encounter with police. Those comments were seized on by the police unions and were at the heart of a cold war between City Hall and many New York Police Department officers.

But the graduation ceremony wasn't all political.

Acting like any other proud parent, the mayor of the nation's largest city cheered and waved wildly when he saw his son — his large trademark Afro barely able to support the graduating mortar board — march in with the rest of his class. He also teased Dante from the stage, noting that his son, who is attending Yale University this fall, chose to wear flip-flops on his graduation day.

Dante's fellow classmates at Brooklyn Tech, one of the city's elite schools, cheered as his face was projected on the giant video screen at the Barclays Center, home to the Brooklyn Nets.

The mayor and his son are close, sharing a love for politics, debate and sports. The mayor used Gracie Mansion, the official mayoral residence, to host a Super Bowl party for his son's friends and he and Dante cheered when their favorite team, the New England Patriots, defeated the Seattle Seahawks for the title.

The mayor has noted more than once that he'll be sad when his son leaves home, but has expressed relief that he'll just be a two-hour drive away. De Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, also have a daughter, Chiara, who attends Santa Clara University in California.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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