Full Text: Governor Bill Haslam's Inaugural Address

Saturday, January 15, 2011 | 07:01am

Inaugural Address
Governor Bill Haslam
January 15, 2011
Governor Ramsey… Speaker Harwell…
Members of the General Assembly…
Constitutional Officers…
Justices of the Supreme Court…
Distinguished Members of Tennessee’s Congressional Delegation…
Honored Guests…
and fellow Tennesseans…
Let me begin by thanking you for placing your confidence in me to serve as your Governor.
With humility, I accept your trust to be a responsible steward of our state’s resources.

As my friend Lamar Alexander says, being the Governor of your home State is a high honor, and if that state just happens to be Tennessee, well it doesn't get any better than that.
One Saturday night about eight months ago, Crissy and I were driving home from Henry County.  It was close to midnight as we came through Nashville, which I knew meant we would be getting home to Knoxville about 3 a.m.  As we drove down
I-40, I saw the lights illuminating our state capitol.
With many months and miles behind us, and quite a few more to go, I thought, "that’s a really beautiful building – but it sure does take a lot of work to get there."
I want to thank my wife, Crissy, who spent endless days with me traveling 120,000 miles across our state.  She joined me in shaking hundreds of thousands of hands, eating a thousand chicken dinners, knocking on countless doors and probably most painful for her, listening to me give the same speech about 2,000 times.  Somewhere along the way she later recounted, she had learned how to look at me adoringly without listening to a word I said.
To our children Annie, Leigh and Will and his wife, Hannah, thank you for your incredible support and encouragement along the way.
The road to public office traverses over paths that are long, challenging and often partisan.  Our democratic system asks good men and women to stand for election as Republican, Democrat or Independent.
After the voters speak freely and openly through the ballot box, the time comes to set aside those things that separate us, and join our hands and our hearts together to aspire to greatness.
Now is the time to help Tennessee reach its potential.
Speaking of aspiring to greatness, Governor Bredesen, thank you for a job well done. And to your wife, Andrea Conte, as First Lady you set the tone to raising awareness of crime victimization and crime prevention.  Thank you.
Governor Bredesen, you often used nautical analogies to describe your ship of state.  You stood at the helm, in good times and through some that were more tumultuous, and never veered off course.
And as an aside, I truly hope our national leaders will use your insights into the health care system to bring about real reform.
Today, a new set of hands will grab hold of those oars and pull with the currents – sometimes against - toward a new horizon.
For two years I criss-crossed Tennessee, from the mountains in the East to the banks of the Mississippi River in the West, sharing in the stories that stitch together the fabric of our state and our people.   I also learned that Tennesseans have opinions – lots of opinions.  But that is a good thing.  And listening to those opinions, as varied as they may be, is what prepared me to lead.
From thousands of conversations along the campaign trail and experiencing first-hand the strong work ethic among Tennesseans, this is a state with people who are up to the challenges that we face.
There is a will to work... a desire to earn a good wage... and to support a family.  But for some, in all honesty, the opportunities are scarce or difficult to attain.  Too many of our fellow citizens remain unemployed and many more are under-employed.
The emerging landscape for jobs in our state breaks in two distinct ways.
There is the vibrant hum of a new economy, that is growing, that encourages learning, and that taps the educated.  Others feel left behind, struggling to gain a foothold and wary of having the tools to compete.
In the new economy there is room for those who prepare for the challenges of a changing workforce. Some come equipped with the right education and skills while others reach out to re-train, re-educate and re-enter a competitive marketplace.
It is time to aspire to be more.
As Tennesseans we often aim too low when it comes to our education, our health and our economy.  It is time to raise our sights.
A person under-employed as well as those unemployed seek to discover a future in front and not a fleeting image from a rear view mirror.
But please understand this point: Government stands ready to assist, but government is not the solution.
Offering hope through workforce development, technical training and work keys are building blocks on the road to job recovery and job security.  But equally important is the individual determination and drive to invest the time and energy and hard work to be more.
There are those who are convinced there is no penalty for giving up and dropping out of school – a job will be readily available.  But, for those who give little, there will be little in return.
We cannot accept 28,000 students dropping out every year without completing high school.  As leaders, our job is to help define reality for all to see and to understand – educational achievement is the real key to the future.
The expectations and standards of education for EVERY STUDENT in Tennessee are high.  This is the time to continue significant education reform - and shame on us if we let this moment escape without meaningful action.  The path for better jobs now and into the future requires more than the current 1 out of 5 Tennesseans over the age of 25 who have a college degree.
This is my commitment to you: We will improve our teaching, learning, retention and graduation.  Every student deserves a great teacher, and every school needs a great principal.  The tools will be in place – the rest is up to each of us to seize the opportunities.
Businesses deciding whether to locate or expand in Tennessee look for more than incentives. The single best recruiting tool for future job growth is a high quality in our work force that flows from our educational achievements.   I recently attended new governor’s school.  I think I passed!  There are twenty-six brand new Governors.  All of us ran on a platform of bringing jobs to our state.  The competition is intense.  Not just with our fellow states in the U.S., but with countries from across the world.
We are honing an edge that will allow Tennessee to stand out in a highly competitive world where everyone is looking for the smallest advantage to succeed.
Reforms and investments in Tennessee’s education system offer promises for tomorrow.  But money and good intentions are not enough to bridge the gap.  Commitments are required– from parents, teachers, students and elected officials.  The standards for educational excellence have been raised and we need plenty of helping hands, not pointing fingers, in our climb to the Top.
It is time to reach for the top tier and not be satisfied with merely being better than last.
A quality workforce also embraces healthy choices and personal responsibility and accountability for a healthy lifestyle.  We can’t remain 44th out of the 50 states in the health of our citizens and attract the jobs that we want, nor obtain the quality of life we desire in Tennessee.
Our goal is simple: Top-tier education for our children. Re-training for those out of work and underemployed.  A healthy lifestyle.  All three will make Tennessee number one in the Southeast for high quality jobs.
Going forward, the governor’s responsibilities will be different.  Compared to 20 years ago, efficiency now is the operative word because resources are fewer.  There is no other choice.
Thomas Freedman recently wrote that “we are leaving an era where to be a mayor, governor, senator, or president was on balance to give things away to people and we are entering an era where to be a leader will mean on balance to take things away from people.  That is the only way we will get our fiscal house in order before the market brutally does it for us.”
As we slowly reverse the negative trends of the economic downturn that gripped our state and nation, we will be diligent in watching the weight of state government, going on a diet of efficiency and effectiveness.
State government will live within its financial means, and a Top to Bottom review will set priorities and establish measurable goals.
We face few easy alternatives in closing the budget gap and balancing the budget – difficult choices face us.  We will make the right decisions that point us toward the future – while doing so with a measure of compassion.
Today, as we begin writing a new chapter in our state’s history,
I ask you, the elected state senators and representatives, to join with me in rolling up our sleeves and going to work.
Our measure of effective state government is whether our citizens are served well and at the lowest possible cost.
The people of Tennessee are our customers and we will be all about great customer service.  In business our goal was to make sure that every employee was either taking care of a customer or taking care of someone who was taking care of a customer.
As Mayor of Knoxville, our goal was to listen, to lead, to be open and transparent and to get things done.  State government will do no less.
Years ago, my father instilled in his children a sense of being unable to sit back, look at a problem and not do anything.  He taught us that life does not revolve around our own world, as comfortable as that might be.  You have to be willing to reach out, take a risk, and understand that the reward for a job well done comes from knowing you have played your part with the gifts God has given you so you are part of something bigger than yourself.
You start with the presumption of saying yes to making a difference and then you see what you can do to help.
That is the measure of leadership.
Leadership shapes reality – it's how education reform grasps the knowledge reins for the future or how, with a gentle nudge, people reach the next rung on the ladder even when it is a stretch to grab hold.
Let me be very clear.  Fiscal challenges and difficult options will characterize our time and leadership.  We have to be willing to press ahead because you feel it is the right step - not necessarily the most popular – in setting the course for the future of all Tennesseans.
Leaders listen, draw on the experience of others and their own life experiences and values, and lay out a path that embraces the hopes, dreams and aspirations for all.
We are at a new day in government in our country and our state. This is not a reference to Republicans winning elections that Democrats won two or four years earlier.
Today, reality is a landscape created from fewer financial resources but one that still provides for the common good.
There are opportunities before us.  We cannot do or be everything. We have to exercise good judgment as we set our priorities.
The path we will travel will not be smooth and there will be a few bumps along the way.
But we will successfully navigate - learning new ideas and building on existing experiences.
This sense of hope and optimism comes from the knowledge that guiding principles serve as anchors in times of challenge. They empower us to do more and help us seek simplicity in moments of uncertainty and confusion.
As your governor, I promise to be a good listener and a continuous learner, to lead with grace and humility, and when faced with adversity, to respond with determination.  And finally, I will work hard.  In business, as a mayor, and as a candidate for governor, I have learned nothing replaces hard work.
After over two years of preparing to be here, I am ready and excited to get to work.
I hope you will join me along the path we start blazing today that will shape the future for Tennessee.
Thank you for your support, your encouragement, your prayers and your commitment to making Tennessee a better place to live, to work, and to raise a family.