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Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher

Inaugural Address: "A New Light, A New Hope"

Governor Ernie Fletcher
Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Governor Fletcher's inauguration speech.

Thanks, dad.

You and mom gave me hope and a strong foundation to serve the people of Kentucky.

Distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens:

As I begin, I thank Governor and Judi Patton for their service to Kentucky.

I thank Governor Nunn, who was the last Republican to occupy this office, 32 years ago.

I thank our new Lieutenant Governor, Steve Pence, who has been an enthusiastic running mate. Not only did he campaign all over the beautiful state of Kentucky, but one morning he took a ferry across the Mississippi River and ended up campaigning in Missouri.

Now, that's dedication.

And I thank my wife, Glenna, who is as beautiful inside as out. She is my closest friend, and the heart of our family. I am honored that this wonderful woman chose to share her life with me, and I am proud for our state to have her as First Lady.

My friends… it is a privilege to stand before you as the new governor of Kentucky.

There is no more beautiful place to me than this home, from the lakes and rivers in the west, to the bluegrass where we are today, to the Appalachians in the east. We are home to Fulbright scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners, and Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry and medicine. Lewis and Clark began their expedition in our state, and the core of their party was a band called the “Nine Young Men From Kentucky.”

About 80 miles from here is the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.

And I'm proud to have held the representative's seat once held by Henry Clay.

There is greatness in this state. I aim to rally our pride in it, and to let the rest of the world know, too.

The first governor, Isaac Shelby, led a growing state whose citizens were guided both by common law and common sense. What a man said, meant something, and if he went back on it, he was held to account.

I hope that in this way, things have not changed.

For as your governor, I stand before the tasks we face today looking for the old paths, where the good way is; a way that is lighted by the optimism, talent, and legacy of Kentucky.

That light falls on all of us today, just as the crisp air surrounds us.

It is as if we are sailing a boat across a clear Kentucky lake, and it is morning, and the only waves and ripples are the ones we make.

This is a day to be joyful in the light, and to celebrate, and we will.

But in the coming days, we must use that light to illuminate the challenges we face, for we inherit not only goodness and greatness, but also duty–a duty to face Kentucky's problems that have festered for a generation. State government has too often been used to look out for the insiders and not the citizens. This has insulated poverty from progress, and need from remedy.

What could have been a broader, common, wealth has become a guarded treasure, traded among the well positioned.

Though we are so proud of being Kentuckians, we are, in our state, somewhat divided from one another. West, East and Central feel enjoined neither to each other, nor to the whole. Rural and urban nurse jealousy, and not entirely without reason–and it has been this way for so long that it has been accepted without even realizing the cost of these hurtful divisions.

The geography of Kentucky is drawn not only on the map but also on the culture. Everyone here, regardless of age, lives as part of a generation that has yet to know the full power of true unity as Kentuckians, one and all.

That ought not to be.

What has come of this is high poverty rates and low education levels.

Not only jobs leaving the state, but also the departure of our talented youth.

An achievement gap between low-income and minority students and the rest of our children.

And a drug problem that is ravaging our communities.

But I say to you that poverty, whether of the spirit or of the world, is not our destiny.

We will restore hope.

Today marks a fresh start. As we begin, the water is still and undisturbed in front of us.

My goal as I enter office is a new unity with efficiency in government, affordable healthcare, and better education.

I've studied how we can do this, and I want you to know we're going to get there without raising taxes on the hard-working people of Kentucky.

I am surrounding myself with women and men of integrity, character and self-discipline to work on behalf of the people of Kentucky. That is how to create an ethical government.

We can pass page after page of ethics laws, but in the end, they will only be honored by ethical people.

Among my first acts as governor will be an executive order to reorganize state government.

On its signing, cabinets will be merged and the first step toward greater efficiency will be taken.

And we will continue to streamline this government, not for its own sake, but to more efficiently serve and directly connect government to the people of this commonwealth.

My friends, greater prosperity for all is coming.

Kentucky government has long focused on the leaves and branches instead of the trunk and roots.

We will now focus on building an infrastructure that is ready for business in the 21st century.

And we will take a broader approach to bring opportunity.

We propose incentives to increase wages, modernize taxes, reform regulations to spur opportunity instead of running it out of the state, and more vigorous support of the industries already here.

In short, we're going to bring good jobs back home.

For healthcare, we propose measures to increase access to services while reducing their cost, removing disincentives so we can keep more doctors in the state, modernizing Medicaid, and working to improve the health of our citizens before problems occur.

As a physician, I am especially dedicated to improvements in this area.

And for education, I am committed to an early literacy program, quality teachers, character education, and safer classrooms.

Education is our greatest opportunity to give an irrevocable gift to the next generation.

We will build upon the successes we have seen in education over the past years.

Clearly, there has been improvement, and we cannot stop now. Whatever success Kentucky has in the future will be achieved only by citizens who receive a complete and vigorous education.

And that includes higher education. In the new, knowledge-based economy, higher education is absolutely necessary. We want to have outstanding regional and research universities, and we will work to place a university among the top 20 research institutions in America.

As leaders of government, we are here to establish justice and ensure liberty. Beyond those limits is not governance, but arrogance.

Yet as the children of a higher power, the passionate focus of our lives must be to relieve suffering, to improve lives, to work for a better future.

In my lifetime, I have known and seen suffering of many kinds, just as you have.

Seeing these things softens your heart, and brings you back to what's important in life. This is the compassion that must guide us.

My fellow citizens, in the long view of time, I'll be your governor for only a little while. But in this time, I want to make a new way for our state. I look forward to a future illuminated by the best of what Kentucky has to offer.

We celebrate today, but we know that the work begins tomorrow. We will turn to the light, and to the harder road.

About 99 years ago, ground was broken on the capitol behind me.

I do not know the name of the men who laid the stones, but their work survives because it was careful and sound, and built to last. It is not their names we recall today, living in their future, but rather their results we see before our eyes. They built something that survived them.

In this spirit, it is time for us to begin to lay stones.

If we light our way with whatever is true; whatever is honest, just, and pure; whatever is lovely, and of good rapport, and do so not only in sentiment but in fact, then we will see our hopes fulfilled.

Any immortality we know will be not only in our faith, but also in that which we give to the generations that follow.

This is the future I see for Kentucky, not just because I want it to be so, but because our people can achieve it. This state is great and so good. There is much talent, and there are so many resources right here, that if we look in the right direction and begin to work toward it, we cannot help but succeed.

Then the stir we make will ripple with success.

And when we do, the destiny we find for Kentucky will be great. New hope will be unavoidable, and as irresistible as the grace of God.

Thank you.


 

Last Updated 2/17/2004
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