Monday, January 08, 2007

Kulongoski's Inaugural Remarks, Complete

as prepared for delivery this morning, and published at the Governor's website, we give you Governor Kulongoski's 2nd Inaugural Address, in full:

Speaker Merkley, President Courtney, members of the 74th Legislative Assembly, my former colleagues on the Oregon Supreme Court, Governor Roberts, friends and fellow citizens: I’m honored to share this day with you.

Before I say more – I want to say thank you: First to the people of Oregon – and a special thank you to my wonderful wife Mary. To my children Ted, Kristin, and Justin, their mother Lynn, and the most important blessing I received in 2006 – my first grandchild, Peter.

I also want to remember my mother-in-law, Elizabeth Oberst, and my father-in-law, Paul Oberst, who as lawyers in the 1960s helped bring the walls of discrimination tumbling down. My parents-in-law were a great inspiration. Their lives were a roadmap for me – and countless others – for how to live a life of integrity and moral courage.

Today I am inspired again – by the thousands of Oregon soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving our state and nation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over Thanksgiving I visited these Oregon heroes in both countries. Many of our troops gave me the telephone numbers of loved ones and asked me to call over the Christmas holidays with Christmas greetings from them – which I was honored to do. I tell you – these brave young men and women are the best Oregon has to give.

They have sacrificed in ways we can hardly imagine. But their place in history is not hard to imagine. Shakespeare gave us the words: “This story shall the good man teach his son … From this day to the ending of the world, we in it shall be remembered; we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” With that I ask for a moment of silence in remembrance of the 77 Oregonians, including 15 from the Oregon National Guard, who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan – and their courageous families.

In his second inaugural, President Lincoln noted that there was little new that he could say about the previous four years. His war-ravaged nation knew what it had been through. Our last four years have been difficult. But the people of Oregon know that. After all, it was their resilience; their hard work; and their deep faith that brought us back from the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

So I am not here to talk about what was. I’m here to talk with you about what will be. This is a great moment of opportunity for Oregon. Our economy is strong. Our confidence is renewed. Our belief in the future is redeemed. I have another belief – that every citizen shares my vision for turning this great moment of opportunity into Oregon’s longest and strongest period of prosperity.

We have the opportunity to fully fund education – from pre- school through workforce training – while building a reserve fund that will shelter us from the storm of the next recession.

We have the opportunity to see that every Oregon child has access to quality health care.

We have the opportunity to protect our quality of life and preserve our reputation as a people who honor our natural environment.

We have the opportunity to make Oregon a leader in alternative and renewable energy.

We have the opportunity to protect all of our citizens from all forms of discrimination.

We have the opportunity to strengthen Oregon’s cultural legacy.

And we have the opportunity to make sure that when a fellow Oregonian – faced with a global economy that moves jobs around the world like pieces on a chess board, and continually demands more education and greater skills – asks, “Does anyone care about me?” and “Who will give me a chance?” the answer comes back loud and clear from each and every one of us: We will!

The next four years is more than an opportunity to build on the gathering strength of Oregon’s economy. It is an opportunity to remember why we love this place called Oregon – and wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Oregon is the state that beckons us to search out and find where the sunrise begins and the river ends: Part nature, part spirit, part memory, part dream – and always asserting its independence and freedom to think different.

There is nothing wrong with setting limits. And there is everything right about making sustainability the fundamental test of our social, economic and environmental policies. But we must never set limits on the spirit and conscience of Oregon, which is to always do better, see farther, think smarter, and imagine greater.

Opportunity did not carry me across the finish line. But it did put me on the starting line. And that’s all I ever wanted. My story is not so different from your story – and the story of millions of other Oregonians.
We weren’t asking for a guarantee of success – just an opportunity to find success. So in this gray and rainy season, I tell you that opportunity is the sunlight and water that will give every child in Oregon – from Ontario to Lincoln City – the chance to bloom.

Opportunity transforms equity and fairness from moral words into social and economic action – and closes the gap, as we must, between those who have found the American Dream and those whose faces are pressed up against the window of that Dream.

Opportunity lifts Oregonians – of every race and ethnic background – onto the economic ladder, allowing them to learn a skill, find a family wage job, purchase a home, pay for health insurance, and save for college. And opportunity is a message to every Oregonian worried about what tomorrow will bring.

These fellow citizens did everything that was expected of them: They worked hard. Paid their taxes. Supported their schools. Raised their children. And kept our economy on track. So to every Oregon family and Oregon worker who feels insecure about the future, I make this promise: We will not abandon you. We have not stopped needing you. We will help retrain you – and see that you have the skills you need to compete in a global marketplace.

Why should we pay so much attention to giving the gift of opportunity? Because opportunity is the Oregon way. We are not a place that tells our fellow citizens: You’re on your own. We care about each other – and watch out for each other. Our neighborhoods and cultural traditions are sewn together into one quilt – not separated by walls and fences, or mountains and valleys. We do not move ahead by leaving others behind. We move ahead by tapping the skills, creativity and potential of each and every one of us. That makes opportunity a two-way street. We invest in the individual – and that investment pays for itself many times over for all of Oregon.

I said that we have reached a defining moment of opportunity for Oregon. But to seize that opportunity we must stand united. Too often we are defined by our differences – usually measured by our support or opposition to this ballot measure or that social issue, or by where we live – or our way of life.

But defining ourselves by our differences can never move us forward. And opportunity is all about moving forward. I don’t expect any of us to give up our core values. And as long as we are a state made up of diverse people, from diverse places, contributing to the economy in diverse ways – we’re going to have lively debates.

But sure as I am standing here, there is only one way that we can take advantage of the opportunity that comes with a growing economy, we must work out our different points of view by working together! Before we are members of political parties – we are Oregonians. Before we are shop owners or shop stewards – we are Oregonians. Before we are electricians or engineers, preservationists or developers, producers or consumers – we are Oregonians.
And before we chose to call any one town or region home – we chose to call Oregon home. So let us commit ourselves to a new birth of unity. And with that unity – a new birth of shared responsibility.

Government has an important role to play in my vision of shared responsibility. For Oregonians who simply cannot care for themselves, the only morally acceptable choice is for government to lend a helping hand. And government bears a special responsibility to children.

Four years ago I said that when times are tough – children go to the head of the line. Well, times are much better now, but that changes nothing. Children still go to the head of the line. That is why I am asking this Legislative Assembly to make Head Start available to every eligible three and four year old.

We know how important it is to introduce children to reading at a very early age. But pre-school is only the beginning. The time has come to make a real investment in children – starting with adequate and stable funding for every level of education – including our community colleges and universities.

The same is true for health care. Every Oregon child – up to age 19 – needs, deserves, and must have health insurance. On this issue, the age-old questions still apply: If not now, when? And if not us, who?

Insuring all children is the beginning, not the end, of our health care challenge. When no Oregonian goes to bed fearing the cost of their next visit to the doctor or hospital – then we will have met our health care challenge. If this sounds too difficult, I remind you what President Kennedy said: We do not do things because they are easy – we do them because they are hard.

Government’s shared responsibility includes being a partner with the private sector in combating global warming – and making sure we attain energy independence and sustainable economic development. Let me ask you a question: How much do you think the war in Iraq is projected to cost? One Nobel prize-winning economist put the figure at 2-trillion dollars. I ask you to think for a moment about what we would have accomplished for America with a 2-trillion dollar investment in education, health care, and an energy policy that puts this nation on a path to energy independence.

If you believe that the Iraq war was at least partially motivated by America’s addiction to oil – I have good news for you: There is a solution within our grasp: Reduce our demand for fossil fuels. I want Oregon state government to be a leader in the new movement away from fossil fuels. That means cutting our own energy consumption, shifting state energy use to renewable sources – and creating opportunities for green companies to grow and prosper here. We can – and will! – make Oregon the renewable energy capital of America.

A generation ago Oregon led the nation by preserving our coastlines and beaches, and by our stewardship of public land. Today we must lead on global warming – and the development of biofuels and other alternative energy sources. Past is prologue. On energy independence, where Oregon goes, America will learn to follow.

As for a sustainable economy – I’ll say simply this: Put aside the legalisms and complexities for a moment and remember why we care about the environment in the first place. Protecting our open spaces, our forests, and our rivers and wetlands defines us as Oregonians. It is who we are!

Sustainability is another opportunity – an opportunity to stay true to ourselves, and to pass to future generations the same environmental treasure that our forebears – both native and pioneer – passed to us.

As we start this New Year, we must also ask: What is the business community’s shared responsibility to make the most of this moment of opportunity for Oregon? I have traveled across this state calling for Oregon business leaders to be the strongest advocates for raising the corporate minimum tax and placing the corporate kicker in a reserve fund.

Not because it’s the right thing to do – although it is. Not even because it’s the fair thing to do – although it is that too. But because it is the smart thing to do. No one has more riding on my commitment to fiscal stability and creating the best trained, best skilled, best educated workforce in the world than Oregon’s business community. The public wants this change. The business community needs this change. And the time has come for the Legislature to make this change.

Let me close by talking about the shared responsibility of citizens. Last month, Oregon experienced the trauma of two heartbreaking rescues that literally captured the world’s attention. But it wasn’t just the search that people were watching – it was the searchers. Heroic Oregonians – some in uniform some not – put their own lives at risk to save strangers. Thousands more offered their prayers and support for the families.

Our people know that we are each other’s keeper, and that we have a shared responsibility to look out for our neighbors, to teach tolerance, to be good stewards of the environment, and to do – in President Lincoln’s words – “right as God gives us to see the right.”

As Oregonians, we have taken – and passed – this great test of our character and humanity many times before. But with every new challenge to our moral courage, and every old injustice not stricken from our laws or banished from our hearts – the test comes our way again.

The test we face today is: Can we “see the right” in a time of prosperity? Or will we be too blinded by the light of our good fortune to notice the many among us who are just one opportunity away from their own good fortune? I said that opportunity is the Oregon way.
But will we only admire opportunity from a distance – and remember it from our past? Or will we use the power of opportunity this year to raise hopes, change lives, and build a more perfect future?

This is our moment to decide. This is our children’s moment to flourish. And by extending the hand of generosity, equality and opportunity to all – this is the State of Oregon’s moment to be reborn as America’s State of Grace.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless Oregon.