Olympic Medalist Rai Benjamin Comes Home for Celebration
Hometown hero Rai Benjamin, with gold and silver Olympic medals around his neck, returned to Mount Vernon Friday, September 10, 2021 where he was cheered by school children throughout the city, gratefully accepted a handful of proclamations, and received the Key to the City.
”I never knew I had this much support,” he said at a ceremony outside City Hall to an audience of supporters, track teammates present and past, family members and VIPs. “I just want to thank you guys so much. Thank you so much for this special event and thank all of you guys for coming out. I want to continue to make all you guys proud and make Mount Vernon proud, make my country proud and just keep going. This is just the beginning.”
Beginning shortly after noon, he was carried on a parade platform through the city in a motorcade, a fire engine and a police escort. With family members, supporters and city and school district leaders, the motorcade included members of the entourage in classic cars – a blue Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible, a red Chevrolet Bel Air, a pale yellow Thunderbird among them.
It departed from The Mount Vernon High School and passed by schools all over the city on its way to City Hall. Supporters wore shirts that said, “#KINGBEN Our Hero.”
At each school, swarms of students and faculty cheered, many with colorful signs of congratulations and praise created at the last minute. Some students waved American flags.
Benjamin, a 2015 Mount Vernon High School alumnus, earned his medals in the Olympic Games in Tokyo last month. He won the silver in the 400-meter hurdles, becoming the second fastest man ever in the event. He won gold in the four-man 400-meter relay.
At the ceremony, he was praised for his accomplishment, the pride he has brought to Mount Vernon, and the hope he has given to the city’s children that they, too, can excel. Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton, Superintendent of the Mount Vernon City School District, praised Benjamin for his excellence in both athletics and academics, and said the message of the ceremony was “what he represents for the young men and women around this city and around this nation who will see themselves in this young man.”
Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard gave him the ceremonial key to the city – the only one she’s given out. The gesture was met with applause and the ceremonial wail of sirens from Mount Vernon Fire Department trucks nearby.
“Thank you for being distinguished, thank you being dignified, thank you for being dedicated to your craft,” Mayor Patterson-Howard said. “Thank you for being determined and thank you for being an incredible representative and ambassador for Mount Vernon.”
Benjamin gave team shirts to the mayor and Dr. Hamilton.
Crystal Collins, representing Westchester County Legislator George Latimer, also presented Benjamin with a proclamation, noting that the pride he has inspired spreads beyond the city’s borders to all of Westchester.
Dr. Hamilton bestowed on Benjamin another of the proclamations. It ended with the words: “Congratulations and may the legend of King Ben ever be told."