Chief Justice Castille; Governor Rendell, Judge Rendell; members of the judiciary; leaders and members of the General Assembly; members of Congress; my fellow Pennsylvanians: today we celebrate a long, proud, and sustaining tradition of democracy.
Over three hundred years ago, a free society took root here in Penn's woods. The leaders of those times were uneasy with a government more prone to political favor than fairness to the people. They were deeply troubled by government exploitation and excess and through the course of human events, envisioned the potential for a new government -- a new ideal -- based in unalienable rights and power derived from the consent of the people.
That debate conducted by our forefathers, beginning with William Penn and carried through the 13 colonies to Philadelphia's Independence Hall, was not without moments of rancor or sacrifice. But those noble leaders stood true to the belief that civility stands at the core of fair and peaceful governance.
As we open this new chapter in Pennsylvania's history, let us also step forward firmly dedicated to a civil discourse. Let us not confuse acrimony with passion or partisanship with principle. Rather, let us take this opportunity to begin a new kind of debate -- one that honors our shared history and unites us as citizens in common purpose. In doing so, I have great faith that we will unleash a new common prosperity to benefit all Pennsylvanians.
I would like to take this moment to recognize Pennsylvania's new First Lady, my wife, Sue. She is my partner, my rock, my everything. Her love of culture and history has always inspired me and I know she will be an inspiration for all Pennsylvanians.
It is fitting that I assume the office of governor pledging my oath on William Penn's bible. As governor, I will lead each day grounded in the truth of Penn's first charted liberties and mindful of the role we have in democracy's endurance. I will honor your trust by standing firm in my guiding principle to do the right things, for the right reasons, even in the most challenging of times. And I will dedicate each and every day over the next four years to fiscal discipline and a responsible, limited government.
The chill that we feel today isn't solely January's wind. We gather during uncertain times and no one has been left untouched. Pennsylvania is known for hard workers, but today they must search too hard for work. Small businesses can't hire. Large employers can't invest. Government has spent beyond its means and individual corrupt acts have eroded an essential element of leadership -- the public's trust.
As we turn this new page in history, Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley and I seek to chart a new course for Pennsylvania. Together, we are dedicated to leadership that is responsive to fiscal realities; leadership that takes on financial burdens, rather than passing those burdens on to the next generation; and leadership that can see beyond today's turbulence and into tomorrow's tranquility.
For some, the impasse between political considerations and economic realities is too difficult. For some, the deadlock between the current size of government and the size our government should be is too daunting. I disagree.
I have had the privilege to see and experience all that is special about Pennsylvania. Our land is rich in resources. Our industry is rooted in innovation. And our people -- our people are extraordinary in their diversity and determination. As they work to make a living and raise their families -- our people are exceptional in their dignity.
Our Commonwealth has been built by exceptional people, with exceptional ideas. William Penn ventured into uncharted lands to fulfill his dream of a great "Holy Experiment." Ben Franklin struggled to define a young country's foundation. And countless men and women, honored in Soldier's Grove, just behind you, demonstrated exceptional courage as citizen soldiers protecting those freedoms.
Today, Pennsylvania's tradition of character and courage carries on in the single mother who works an extra job so she can send her children to a better school; in the researchers who have taken a nugget of an idea and turned it into viable nanotechnology; and in the third generation farmer who is as committed to the environmental integrity of his land as he is to keeping the family farm going.
Our people -- our fellow Pennsylvanians -- make this an exceptional state. Today I call upon everyone in state government to summon all of the will and talent within you to advance the promise of our Commonwealth and to perform exceptionally for all Pennsylvanians.
This will require creativity and courage, and be assured that where there is creativity and courage we will navigate the pending storms.
It will take courage, it will take courage to pursue government and legislative reform. As individuals, there are moments that require quiet contemplation; an intimate "step home within ourselves" to carry us to our ultimate destination. Today is our moment to assess our state government and choose a course that will renew the founding principles of democracy's covenant.
In that reflection, I believe the only conclusion is the one the people expressed last November. We must act to renew the people's trust in government. We must restore transparency, accountability and fiscal discipline. But we will move forward with government and legislative reform because, without it, there is no good government.
We need good government. The people now demand it. And they deserve it. We will lead the way toward a government that understands that, just as families have found a way to live within their means, it too must budget in a way that is responsible and honest, a government that has the courage to find fiscal strength in restraint, a government that shows compassion for those most in need and recognizes its citizens' great investment, a government that must yield them a hopeful, realistic return.
To those who create jobs and to those who raise our future workers: you deserve a government that will not ask more of its citizens until it asks more of itself. I will not shrink from such a challenge; nor will I ignore the opportunities to set Pennsylvania on its new course, a new course where financial security leads us to prosperity and greatness.
You will never hear me say "impossible." To say it, or worse, to believe it, would accomplish nothing. I see the possible. And in the possible I see a promising future for Pennsylvania.
I see a promising future; one that breathes new life into our existing economies such as agriculture and manufacturing. I see a future that embraces innovation in emerging frontiers of energy, life sciences and biotechnology. I see a future that sets free the kind of creativity and competition that will make Pennsylvania the envy of our nation.
I believe in Pennsylvania and I believe in Pennsylvanians. And in those beliefs is a certainty that the best way to embrace innovation -- the best way to make us competitive -- is to make us competitive in education. Today, our students compete not only with those from the other 49 states, but with students from around the world. Our education system must contend with other nations and so we must embrace innovation, competition and choice in our education system.
All of this will take time. The challenges we face were not created overnight, nor will they be solved in a 24-hour news cycle or an arbitrarily conceived deadline. It is more important to lead with decisive action that is accurate and precise. This is a generational moment. Our children's grandchildren deserve our focused attention on doing only what is right to bring about this generational change.
I am confident. I am confident because as we work to steady our Commonwealth with patience and perseverance, our courage will be no less than what Pennsylvanians have already done in summoning their own best from within.
There is no more noble example of Pennsylvania's inner strength, than the generations of courage commemorated just across the way in Soldier's Grove. Last week, I walked among the trees and plaques that honor the men and women whose personal sacrifice have timelessly protected our freedoms. They were ordinary people serving in extraordinary times. They demonstrated their commitment during the harsh winter at Valley Forge, their courage in the bloody fields of Gettysburg, and their valor on the beachheads of Normandy. Their heroism in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq humbles us. And today, I ask that we honor all those who continue to "hang tough" in Afghanistan.
"Wars do not make people great, but sometimes they bring out the greatness in good people." Such was the wisdom of the beloved Pennsylvania patriot Major Richard "Dick" Winters. His recent passing is a loss not only for Pennsylvania, but our entire nation. Major Winter's valor behind enemy lines in France was immortalized by the Band of Brothers, but I believe that what makes us look to him as a leader and true hero was his courage, his earnest humility, his private determination and the warm respect he showed and fostered among his men. Over the Capitol today, we fly a flag given to Major Winters by fellow soldiers in honor of the legacy he leaves and a reminder to all of us.
Let us honor Major Winters, and all those who have served by calling upon the best within ourselves. Let us dare to do great things, by daring to do what is right day by day. And let our legacy reflect all that is exceptional about Pennsylvania.
In doing so, we will find a true common wealth that allows this generation and future generations to dream with credible hope.
Join me. With God's protective guidance we will lead with clear minds, full hearts, and eyes set toward new generations of Pennsylvania's true and sustaining greatness.
May God bless you. May God bless our Commonwealth and may God bless the United States of America.
January 18, 2011