Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who now serves as a senior adviser to President Biden, joins Yahoo News Senior White House Correspondent Alexander Nazaryan to discuss the future of American cities and lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. "I think people should be encouraged by our resilience," says Bottoms. "We went through the most difficult of times, at least in my lifetime, we've made it to the other side and we're still standing."
ALEXANDER NAZARYAN: As someone who's always lived in cities, just back from New York. And it's great to see tourists. But there's many parts of downtown here in DC, again, New York, or San Francisco where cities don't feel-- they feel different and not in a great way. So what would you say to someone who doesn't like that and wonders when it will change?
KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: I think that we have to look historically at moments when cities and people across the world have encountered difficult situations. It's made us more resilient. We aren't the first generation that's encountered a pandemic.
We aren't the first generation that's encountered difficult times. And we won't be the last. But what I know is that as I sit and talk to you, I know that we have been able to pivot. This is something that we otherwise may not have done virtually two years ago.
And I really think it speaks to our resilience. And I think that people should be encouraged by our resilience, to be able to say we went through the most difficult of times, at least in my lifetime, we've made it to the other side, and we're still standing. And so much of that has to do with the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris.
ALEXANDER NAZARYAN: You think it's important for people to return to the office for cities to revive? Or I mean, what's your thought on that?
KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: I think that every employer has to make the decision that's best for them. I don't think we'll ever go back to where we were in terms of a mass number of people going into offices each and every day. And I know for younger employees, many of them are demanding that they don't go back in in that way, because they have come into the workforce in an environment where there is oftentimes a hybrid or an option to work remotely.
But what we see happening in cities across America, we see many office buildings transitioning into housing centers. So we are seeing people think differently. And again, what's been so great about the Biden-Harris administration is just being in lockstep with communities, listening to communities-- not just working from the White House saying, this is what we are going to give you, but listening to leaders in communities about what communities need.
And we know, again, coming out of 2020, people will work differently. Employers will want to offer a different environment under different circumstances. So I think that's going to be an individual decision, but one that we certainly, I think, welcome across the country.
ALEXANDER NAZARYAN: And are you thinking-- should we be thinking about-- how are you thinking about this stage in the pandemic right now, especially as kids prepare to go back to school, I think have already gone back-- or are about to go back to school in many parts of the South and Southeast, and people will come back from vacation, and the fall will obviously begin. How are you thinking about the pandemic now?
KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: Well, again, I think this is our new normal. And what I see is I'm out and about, and I'm sure you see it as well, is that people are much more comfortable going out and about. When I look at my kids, who have been in masks for the past couple of years-- my youngest, anyway-- my twins are asking, do they have to wear their mask this school year?
And they are fully vaccinated. So my answer to them has been, no. Be smart about when you put your mask on and when you take it off, but I have that comfort because my kids are fully vaccinated. And I think that is still the push that we are hoping to have across this country that-- people recognize that what we are seeing with COVID, this turn in COVID, and how people are able to come out of having a COVID infection is only because so many people have been vaccinated-- fully vaccinated and boosted.
And we've got to continue to make sure that message is heard in our schools for the safety of our children and the safety of our teachers, and our janitorial staff, our cafeteria workers, our bus drivers-- that it's all about being fully vaccinated so that we can all live comfortably with where we are with COVID-19.