Good morning. Thank you so much. Now we're going to shift languages here and we're going to move to a Southern dialect.
Greg, thank you so much for a kind introduction. My colleague, Senator Carper, wanted to know if my mother had written that. She contributed, I guarantee you.
Welcome to all of you all. It is great to be here in New York. It is great to be here with so many people who are committed to what it is that we must do in this great nation and that is to provide the leadership that will take us into the 21st century. Now, I do come from a part of the country where the people say that the only thing in the middle of the road is a yellow line or roadkill. Well, as a centrist, I've got to tell Reverend Lucas that it is important that you do what the old folks do, and that is continue waking up, because if you don't you end up in the middle of the road as one of those items as opposed to the centrist with the leadership that we need to be able to make the good decisions for this great country.
So I am very proud to be here. I'm also very proud and pleased to be here today as the recruitment chair for the DLC's 2002 National Conversation. That's an important part of what we all have to do, and that is to talk about what our plans are and what we intend to do. I'd like to also say that as chair of the recruitment initiative here that this is the most widely attended DLC conversation since its inception over six years ago. And I want to thank the staff. It's a great --
I want to thank especially the DLC staff and certainly Al From and especially my colleague, Senator Evan Bayh, for the incredible work that they have all done with the DLC in making this event possible.
So my duty here is to welcome you all here to the national conversation. And judging by our record participation, this year's event will be best ever. This year we're more than 330 New Democrats strong. That includes almost 20 governors, lieutenant governors and other state-wide elected officials. It includes more than 120 mayors, city and county officials. It includes some of 170 state senators and representatives, and close to 20 U.S. senators and representatives. Altogether we represent all but a small handful of the entire United States.
Now, that's not a coincidence. Our strength here in the numbers and in the visibility of the variety and diversity of individuals that we have, I think, is completely indicative of what you're going to see in this year's election and in the forthcoming years as to what the people of this great nation are looking for. This diversity and breadth of experience, combined with our shared third way approach to governing, means that we are uniquely positioned to meet the challenges of the day, and the challenges of the day for our great nation are tremendous. We bring the down to earth perspective and commitment to commonsense values that ordinary Americans share, particularly those in our group who are local officials and largely work directly with our constituents without staff. Our state and national elected bring a more macro perspective, encompassing the interests of a wide array of people and communities they represent.
It isn't often that such a diverse group of elected officials get together to talk with and learn from one another. And what a conversation we will have. We hail disproportionately from suburbs and cities where the population growth is greatest. We have 120 mayors, city council members and other city officials. That's one in three of us, and that is no surprise nor is it a coincidence. We are here because the DLC offers the hope for the future because we have new ideas based on centrist themes. I think it's one of the most important things that we can present to the American people.
We see government as a friend. We see government as a tool, something that we can improve on, working together, and it's our responsibility to do it. Not long ago cities were in decline. To bring their communities back, politicians had to question the status quo politics and they had to demand change. Today many of America's cities are hubs of innovation. New Democrats led the innovation in cities like Bethlehem with Mayor Cunningham, Baltimore with Mayor O'Malley, Detroit with Mayor Kirkpatrick, and Indianapolis with Mayor Peterson. We come disproportionately from the fastest growing states. Just about one in three of us are from the top ten states topping the charts in population growth.
So we gather today as a large, diverse and experienced group, and we're equipped with more tools for policy innovation ranging from the DLC's state and local Playbook and the New Dem Daily to its valuable leadership training, which by the way, the majority of the conversation participants have gone through. With so many innovators participating in this year's national conversation, I think we can be confident that New Democrats will once again fill the leadership gap with the ideas and the governing agenda that Americans want and need.
Thanks to each and every one of you all for your leadership in your communities and in your states, and for your commitment to this new way that each of us knows must be a part of the future of this great nation, and welcome to the national conversation. Thank you.