January 16, 2011

Inaugural Poetry, Part 2: The Ocean, Gem, and Golden States

A collection of thoughts from gubernatorial inaugural addresses.

Rhode Island: Lincoln Chafee
We have suffered for reasons
that are all too familiar to all of us.
Our present condition has not developed

It has been decades in the making
and it is the shared legacy of Democrats and
Republicans, business and labor,
liberals and conservatives.

We have tolerated something that Roger Williams
did not – a refusal to do the work necessary
to correct our course,
and an acceptance of a fractious society
that emphasizes division over common purpose.

Each part of our agenda is important unto itself.
But our ultimate goal is to reclaim the vision
of our founder… It is written in marble behind me:
“To hold forth a lively experiment…
that a most flourishing civil state may stand.”

Our state may be small, but our ambitions
have never been. Our challenges are great,
and our obstacles are many,
but I promise you today
that our great state will lead again.

Rhode Island’s best days are still ahead of us.
Let us today begin that journey
to a better future.

Our time here is so short.
And Rhode Island is so extraordinary.

Idaho: Butch Otter
Idahoans are deeply concerned
with decisions that affect the liberties
and opportunities available for
future generations.
Idahoans take seriously their job
in electing individuals who will
safeguard those freedoms.

Tolerance for mission creep
spawns an attitude of passive acceptance
that government’s needs come before
those of the people.

The divide is increasingly drawn
between those who work for a living,
and those who vote for a living.

Ladies and gentlemen, that day is gone.
Frugality in the public sector should
not be seen as cruel or careless,
but rather as necessary to maintaining
our economic and personal liberties.

Idahoans are best characterized
by their determination.
We always are determined to improve
ourselves and our communities, and we depend
On each other to make that happen.

We labor together, we celebrate
our victories together,
and together we work
to make our State an oasis
of personal compassion
and unlimited opportunity.

California: Jerry 'Moonbeam' Brown
Without the trust of the people, politics
degenerates into mere spectacle; and
democracy declines, leaving
demagoguery and cynicism to fill the void.

In this crisis, we simply have to learn
to work together
as Californians first,
members of a political party second.

It is not just my family
but every Californian is heir to some
form of powerful tradition,
some history of overcoming challenges
much more daunting than those we face today.
From the native peoples who survived
the total transformation of their way of life,
to the most recent arrival,
stories of courage abound.
And it is not over.

The people of California have not lost their
pioneering spirit or their capacity to meet
life's challenges.. We an overcome the sharp
divisions that leave our politics
in perpetual gridlock,
but only if we … find that loyalty, that devotion
to California above and beyond
our narrow perspectives.

It is sobering and enlightening to read through
the inaugural addresses of past governors.
They each start on a high note of grandeur
and then focus on virtually the same... issues —
education, crime, budgets, water.

It strikes me that what we face
together as Californians are not so much
problems but rather conditions,
life's inherent difficulties.
A problem can be solved
or forgotten but a condition always remains…
to elicit the best from each of us
and show us how we depend on one another
and how we have to work together.

With realism, with confidence, with loyalty
— in that deepest sense —
to California, to my forebearers and
to posterity — as our song says:
"California here I come right back where I started from."

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