Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Gov. Taft's Inaugural Address

January 13, 2003

Lieutenant Governor Bradley, Chief Justice Moyer, Speaker Householder, Senate President White, Senator DiDonato, Representative Redfern, former Speaker Davidson, President Bush's Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, honored elected officials - family, friends, and fellow Ohioans - welcome and thank you for being with us on this historic day.

I want to thank our daughter, Anna, for being with us this afternoon. Anna, it's been a joy to have you home over the holidays. We're very proud of you. Thank you for the honor of swearing me into office, just as you did four years ago.

I'm also blessed to have Hope in my life. Hope's mother Janet, who is here today and going strong at 87, told Hope as a child she could do anything she wanted. Hope believed her and has been doing amazing work as Ohio's First Lady. I know that I would not be standing here today without the devotion of my wife and partner of more than thirty years. Hope, thank you so much for your love and support, and your hard work on behalf of all Ohioans.

And I'd like to thank Sylvia McNair for returning once again to Ohio to grace us with her beautiful singing.

Most importantly, Jennette and I want to thank the voters of Ohio, and especially our many supporters who have joined us here today, for this opportunity to continue our service to our state.

Four years ago, I stood before you after taking the oath to serve as your Governor at the dawning of a new century and a new millennium.I saluted our earliest pioneers who settled a wilderness and established a new state in our first century.

I paid tribute to the pioneers of invention, industry, and labor - those people whose genius and hard work put Ohio on the cutting edge as America rose to world leadership at the start of our second century.

Today, I stand before you honored and humbled as I begin my second term as Governor in a year when we mark yet another historic event - Ohio's Bicentennial.

2003 will be a year when, simultaneously, we rejoice in our proud history, and chart a course for prosperity in Ohio's third century.

It will be a year of immense challenge. Most immediately, we must address the budget. States across America are battling the worst fiscal conditions since World War II. Ohio is no different.

Our budget reserves will soon be gone. So too our one-time revenues. Mandated spending will be hard to control. The national economy has failed to recover. Our state tax revenues have failed to rebound.

Our duty in the face of this crisis? Balance the budget and fund our priorities - schools, jobs, and essential services for those most in need.

The choices will be hard, maybe even painful. The times and circumstances will demand difficult decisions.

But let us also find opportunity in this season of sacrifice. Opportunity to improve essential public services. Opportunity to reform and modernize our tax code to achieve greater simplicity and fairness. And opportunity to position Ohio for future prosperity.

I pledge to work day and night to seize these opportunities, because you and I know that Ohio's best days are yet to come.Four years ago, right here, I stated we were standing on the doorstep of a new frontier of knowledge and technology - a place where Ohio must be a leader among states and nations. Now, we're advancing across that frontier.

Our Third Frontier Project is helping the private sector transform our economy to create more high-paying jobs for our sons and daughters here in Ohio.

We've awarded grants to university partnerships, high-tech companies, and early-stage venture funds. We're forging new relationships between business and research centers. Ohio is becoming one of the most wired states in the country and we are extending broadband to under-served areas of the state.

Workers from all walks of life are upgrading their skills to compete in the knowledge economy.

The Third Frontier is not just a series of programs. Rather it's a destination...a destination of success for a state of prosperity.

And in November, we will broaden our Third Frontier partnership to include all Ohioans. We'll ask voters to approve a new bond issue to recruit scholars, attract more research dollars, and move new ideas from the laboratory into the marketplace.

My friends, the Third Frontier Project is not a luxury. It's an investment today to make Ohio better tomorrow. It's an investment we must make. And, let there be no doubt, it's an investment that I will fight to protect.

A highly-educated workforce is an absolute necessity if Ohio is to succeed in the knowledge economy. That's why for the past four years, my highest priority has been to improve education so every child in every part of Ohio can succeed in school, in college, and beyond.

I'm glad that so many students from across the state have joined us here today. As citizens of our third century, you will inherit the legacy that we build and like those that have come before, you must seize the opportunities, all the opportunities, that Ohio has to offer.

Thank you for being here to represent the future of our state.

We've made great progress with these and other children.

School improvement is taking place all across Ohio. More children are learning at higher levels than ever before. Forty-five thousand Ohioans are serving as volunteer reading tutors. New school buildings are going up at record rates. We are putting in place a system of high standards, rigorous assessments, targeted interventions, and accountability for results second to none in the nation.

Are we making good progress? Definitely. But do we still have a long way to go? Absolutely.

For Ohio to soar in our third century, our students, all our students, must soar to even higher levels of achievement.

And so we shall build on our progress. We'll continue to improve education funding, build more safe modern schools, improve the reading and math skills of our children and make sure every child has a caring, capable teacher in their classroom.

While more Ohioans are enrolled in our colleges and universities than at any time in our history, we must continue to strengthen our commitment to higher education, for higher learning does in fact lead to higher earning.

If Ohio is to prosper in the knowledge economy, we must take bold measures to keep the best and brightest students here at home, to graduate persons who have mastered the art of problem solving and working in teams, and who have the ability to learn new skills throughout their careers.

In short, we must ensure our system of higher education offers world-class quality for a world-class economy.

But it's also true that our financial condition makes it hard to provide significantly more resources to our colleges and universities in the short run.

Knowing this, we must think and act anew as we seek to improve our higher education system. And so, in the coming weeks, I will establish the Governor's Commission on Higher Education and the Economy. It will include leaders of government, business, labor and academia.

I'll ask the commission to recommend within a year how to improve the quality of our higher education system, increase efficiencies, eliminate unnecessary duplication, broaden the use of technology and determine how higher education can most effectively support the state's economy and add to our quality of life.

Few states, if any, have achieved the goal I am setting today - securing a maximum return on our higher education investment. But we can and we will. Because Ohio's future depends on it.

Our mission over the next four years will lead us to more high-paying jobs, improved schools and a stronger system of higher education. But we have also a moral duty to find new and better ways to care for our fellow citizens who cannot fully care for themselves.

Most dependent seniors and persons in need want the choice to live in their own homes or with their own families, rather than in an institution. As a society we must rethink how we care for those in need.

Here in Ohio, we're expanding home and community care. But we must do more.

Our seniors have given so much to us. They protected our nation, raised our children, built our economy and made our state what it is today. It's time to give more back - the right to live out their lives with comfort and dignity. Our seniors deserve no less.

Clearly, a daunting set of tasks lies ahead of us, yet I know that we will prevail.

We can take heart from how much we have accomplished together in just four years. And we can draw inspiration from the stories of Ohioans who have come before us and those who are with us today. For we are a pioneering, innovative, aspiring, and creative people, able to turn any adversity into opportunity.Two hundred years ago, Ohio's founders - Thomas Worthington, Edward Tiffin, Nathaniel Massie, Michael Baldwin, and many others - summoned their great wisdom and courage to forge a great state.

A century later, Thomas Edison harnessed light itself and the Wright brothers looked - and leaped - skyward.

More recently, John Glenn orbited the earth and Neil Armstrong took man's first step on the moon.

Ohioans all, they changed the course of human history.

Many in this place have already made history and will continue to do so in the years ahead.

Thirty-some years ago, a young woman started her freshman year at East High School here in Columbus. She studied hard and as she embarked on her career, she displayed purpose and passion, and was not afraid to seize the opportunities Ohio had to offer. Today, she took an oath to become Ohio's and the nation's first female African-American to serve as Lieutenant Governor - Jennette Bradley.

One hundred years from now, Ohioans will gather to mark the dawn of our state's fourth century. They will look back on the history of our statehood and will talk, as we have today, about how far Ohio has come - and how much farther we still have to go.

They may even read some of the speeches given today and throughout our bicentennial year. But they will focus, not so much on what we said, but what we accomplished when the celebrations were over.

For their Ohio will have been shaped, in important ways, by the actions that we take over the next four years. That is, indeed, one of the blessings of public service in an era of new beginnings.

It's also the responsibility we bear as we work through the difficult challenges that lie ahead. Let us remember that these challenges are fleeting, but the solutions we find together - and the manner in which we pursue our vision for Ohio's third century - will endure.

Let us walk in the shoes of those who went before us, and conquer the third frontier on whose threshold we stand today. Let us make it possible for every single Ohio child to succeed like Jennette Bradley or John Glenn or Neil Armstrong.

Let us seize the special opportunity that is ours to act boldly and decisively at a time when the eyes of our fellow citizens, both present and future, are upon us.

May God bless our work, our mission and our people. May God bless Ohio.

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