SPEECH BY GOVERNOR PAUL E. PATTON TO THE NEW MEMBERS OF THE LEGISLATURE
JANUARY 9,1997


I do appreciate you all getting together and giving me the opportunity to get briefly introduced. And I look forward, to all the new members, to working with you on an individual basis in the next two or three years, however long it turns out to be. I want to invite each of you to come by the office, particularly after this week is over, after you return and you are back in town, to get acquainted with my staff. I still have a problem being able to recognize everyoneís face, but I want to invite each of you to come by personally and get better acquainted.

Let me ask you to begin to understand this political process as differentiated from this process of governing the state of Kentucky. Now this week we have had a lot of concentration on the political process. And if you donít know you will soon find out that I am a strong leader of the Democratic Party but I can work with Republicans just as well, when it comes to governing, as I can Democrats. I get votes anywhere I can get them.

I see Jim Zimmerman back there and I guess the first time I met Jim I can remember it well. Jim, I think, had just come into the General Assembly and I think he knew that I had some political ambition some way or the other and we got to talking and he said, "You are my kind of person and I am going to support you when you run for Governor." I said, "Jim, Iím a Democrat " he said, " You are? You act like a Republican!" And what I wanted to do is act like a Kentuckian and try to get us all working together to do what is best for the Commonwealth.

So, I believe very strongly in the two party system. I believe they serve this country and this state well. There are certain fundamental principles of the two party system that make it work. And one of those fundamental principles is that the leaders of that party, whether they be elected officials of the party or public officials elected under the banner of the party, whether itís Democrats or Republicans, when it comes to certain fundamental issues of organization, that does not mean on public issues affecting your constituents or the welfare of this state, it is my belief that we as individuals have to exercise our own personal judgment on those issues.

I can tell you, if I were proposing to the General Assembly what I believed was best for the people, and it turned out that Republicans supported it and the majority of the Democrats did not support it, I would not feel committed to change my position to reflect the will of the majority of the Democratic members of the General Assembly.

Thatís not what Iím talking about. Iím talking about the fundamental element it takes to keep these two parties strong. I would expect Republican leaders to feel the same way. That is the issue we have been discussing this week.

The week is over, and that has been settled, more or less. And we are going to move on to governing this state. So let me take a moment to give you something about my vision for Kentucky and what I hope to do as governor and how that applies to Higher Education.

The bottom line. I would hope to see a Kentucky, in 20 years, where the standard of living and the quality of life matches that of the rest of the country. I would hope in my tenure to lay the foundation to achieve that goal. Whether it is 4 years or 8 years Iím going to lay the foundation.

We canít solve our problems in one year or the term of one Governor or the term of one Legislator. If we can do it in 20 years, we have worked a miracle. But thatís the bottom line. I hope that history 50 years from now will say that Paul Patton laid the foundation that led to moving Kentucky into its proper place in these United States.

I think that the fundamental cause of our problem is the lack of leadership with a vision to know what was right in the long run and the courage to do it.

I was watching Comment on Kentucky some 2 weeks ago and I believe that Dr. Klotter had written a book and they were talking about the book. In 1900 Kentucky was the 13th most popular state in this nation. As recently as 1900, the beginning of this century, Kentucky was the most populous and one of the most influential states in this nation with national leaders coming out of Kentucky.

This century has not been that way. There are some fundamental reasons, in my judgment, that that has happened. We did not invest in the future. We lived for today. We didnít invest in basic infrastructure like roads, and more importantly, we didnít invest in the human capital of our people. That is the tragedy of Kentucky and it was done fundamentally by our elected leaders who did not have the courage to do what was right for the future generation. And weíre all paying and will continue to pay. Our children will pay. And we will be judged in history as to whether or not we faced up to the challenge.

While education has put us in the position that we are in, "Thank God for Mississippi, thank God for West Virginia" is not my motto, but lack of education, neglecting education caused this problem.

Now let me tell you that I am proud of the fact that this General Assembly six years ago had the courage to say weíre going to change that and we are going to start at the foundation of education. Weíre going to start with elementary and secondary education and we are going to fund it. And damn the consequences.

We are going to fund it equally. We are going to make sure that every child in this state, regardless of where they live, regardless of the economy of their county, is going to be funded adequately to have a fair education. That is caring.

We also said we are going to change the way it works to the best of our ability. We are not going to just throw change at it. We are going to listen to the best advice we can get. We know what we did 50 years ago in any field of endeavor is not good for today. Whether itís the way you run your company, whether itís the kind of phone system you use, whether itís whatever it is. If you were doing it 50 years ago and you are still doing it today, itís wrong.

So we said we were going to look for the best advice. Weíre not going to be led by emotionalism. Weíre not going to be led by regionalism. Weíre not going to be led by established institutions. Weíre going to be led by the experts that studied how children learn.

Itís a science. How children learn is a science. We are going to go to the experts and we are going to do the best we can to design a system that will let our children learn the best. That was the Kentucky state legislatureís finest hour. And donít ever forget that.

It took courage. It took people willing to put their personal political future on the line and some of them paid the price. But those people will be able to look back and be able to say they did what was right.

Let me urge you to make that your goal. If you are in politics for adulation, forget it. If you are in this because when you get through someone is going to call you a hero, forget it. We donít have heroes in public service today. But if you are in this, so that at some time you may be able to sit on the front porch and rock and say, I made that childís life better, youíre in it for the right reason.

I served for ten years as County Judge for Pike County. I may not be real popular in Pike County, I donít know. And during that ten years I believe because of my leadership, because I made that government work more efficiently and because I came to Frankfort and got things for that government, that I can go all over that county. I can see a ball field, I can see a bridge, I can see a building that I believe wouldnít be there if I hadnít given ten years of my life to those people.

You can go to a ball field today or you can go up there and say, "What did Paul Patton have to do with this?" And a person there will reply like, "Well, I donít know what he had to do with it." But I know. Thatís the reason Iím in this game and I hope thatís the reason you are in it.

So now that we have made the commitment to elementary and secondary education, which we had to do first, which is the foundation, the time has come to address higher education and thatís the house.

You canít live in a foundation. But you have to have a good foundation. But we have to build a house. I donít know what itís going to look like. Iím certainly not the expert. I want to go to the experts. Iíve already started that. Iíve been tied up with Workersí Comp and some other things the better part of this first year. But I am beginning to talk to the experts. And I hope you do likewise.

And at some point, I want to come to you and Iím going to make a recommendation based on what I believe will be good for this state and the future. That recommendation wonít be perfect. And I would hope that we could counsel together and make whatever I come up with better. Like we did on Workersí Comp.

I told you when I addressed the joint session that Iíve done the best that I can do. Now take this beginning point and make it better. I believe we made it better and itís still not perfect. But let us take that approach towards making sure that our children have the opportunity to get a good education. And there is one thing that I know, itís that we donít have as good a system of higher education, Post Secondary Education, everything beyond high school in this state that we have to have if we are going to reach this goal.

Now we are not a rich state, we canít afford what some other states can afford. So we have to make sure that what we do put into higher education is used as efficiently as it possibly can. And I am convinced that we are not doing that. And I am convinced that we can do better.

You know the facts of us having an adult population of work force population that I believe, is 48 or 49 out of 50. Now if we are going to have this economy that we talked about, that is equal to the national average, we are going to have to have an educated population that has skills equal to the national average. We are a long way from there.

As important as education has always been, it will be more important in the future. Because the only way that this nation can continue to have a constantly improving standard of living that we have had in all of our history, is to do it with intellectual power. Because the day is gone where we can do it with manual labor. Because there are people that will work longer than we will, that will work harder than we will, work for less of a standard of living than we have. So we canít do it with manual labor the way we built this country, we have to do it with mental labor. We have to out think the rest of the world.

So we are sitting here with a work force that is way below what we need. If we were producing educated people at the national average it would take us 40 years to replace that work force. If we were producing at the national average. And we are not.

If we produced at the national average we would have to have 65% more technical education. We would have to increase our technical education by 65%. We would have to increase our Baccalaureate by 20%. We have to increase our Masters production by 40%. We would have to increase our Doctorate by 65% or so. If we did that, for 40 years, we would reach the national average.

Quality is just as important and my research so far has not shown me that our quality is not lower or higher than the national average. I havenít gathered enough information to make that judgment yet. But we also have to have quality, we canít just do it with quantity. We will always be the traditional residential campus where our young people get out of high school and get that education that I have had and many of us have had but thatís not enough.

We have to make sure that our citizens, what we call our non-traditional students, have the opportunity to improve their education. Even if we have gotten an adequate education in those traditional years in this day and age, we have got to have life-long learning.

Continuing education, even for those that have adequate education to start with, those people are place bound. They have jobs. They have families. They are established all over this commonwealth. We have to have education for them also, we canít just talk about our traditional aged students. We have to recognize that some of our students are not mature enough and wonít take advantage of the opportunity.

We have to question, "Are we going to invest public money in to people who are not mature enough to use that money to its maximum advantage." We have to question the fact, "Should we make them go in to the work force and find out just how tough it is?" Then maybe they will come back with the maturity to use what we make available to them. We have to look at those things.

I pause to tell you my favorite Bambi story and then Iím going to shut up. My daughter Bambi was a typical high school student, had a good time, got ready to go to college and ready for the good life, wanted to go to UK, that was the party school in the state. Her mother wouldnít let her do that. She said, "No. you can go to Pikeville or you can go to Transylvania." Well, she dang sure didnít want to go to Pikeville so we put her in Transylvania.

After that first semester we got that letter from the dean. It said, "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Patton, your daughter Bambi is on academic probation and if her grades do not meet the minimum standards she will not be readmitted to Transylvania next fall."

Now we had the typical "father-daughter" talk and I said, "Bambi, honey weíll give you all the education that you are willing to absorb. But when you flunk out of school itís the big world. Itís the Hardeeís, itís the McDonalds, itís the K-mart. Itís wherever you can get a job. Your life is up to you."

She said, "Dad if I make the Deanís list, will you buy me a Corvette?" I immediately agreed for two reasons, I knew she wouldnít make the Deanís list, and I didnít know how much a Corvette cost. But needless to say she made the Deanís list and she got a Corvette. A typical example of a young person realizing that they are responsible for their own life.

Eventually all of us have to reach that age. My other daughter Nikki was born mature, and Bambi matured at the age that is most traditional, and some people never mature. But we have got to make sure that we donít waste money on immature people in our world.

So, thatís just sort of some of my freelance advice to you. Letís work together. Letís put partisan politics aside. Letís do whatís right for all the people of this state. Weíll disagree but we donít have to be disagreeable.

I apologize for taking so much time and being so emotional. The future of this state is in our hands. Itís an awesome responsibility. Let it not be said of us as it has been said of many others, that they met the challenge and they failed.

Tell you one more little story. As a senior I was a substitute half-back with a team that went one and nine. As a half-back I ran with the guards, letís just put it that way. But my dad always said, "Son, the failure is not to fail to win but rather to fail to try." I will not fail to try and let us not fail the people of Kentucky. Thank you all.