Inaugural Speech

April 3, 2004

Thank you so very much. What a kind introduction and what beautiful words by such dear friends. What makes today truly special is that there are so many friends and family members who are here today to join in this celebration. To you, I say "Welcome!" to our state capitol.

This chamber where we are gathered is the place where 31 individuals representing 31 diverse districts come together to find solutions to the challenges facing our state.

It is an honor to have Senators representing every region of our state here today, and I would like to ask each of the members of the Texas Senate to please stand one more time and be recognized and thanked for their leadership.

This tradition of Governor for the Day is not just an honor for the individual senator, but for the people of her, or his, district.

That is why I am so proud to see so many individuals from Tarrant and Denton counties here.

I also see many old friends from the counties I used to represent. Friends from Erath, Johnson, Hood, Parker, Dallas, Ellis and other counties. I miss you. It is great to have you here today.

I have represented rural, suburban, and urban counties and I have been asked about the differences among those constituencies.

One would think the issues of concern to the peanut farmers in Eastland County would be very different from those of concern to someone who lives in a downtown high-rise or a suburban soccer mom.

And yes, just as the 58 cities in my senate district sometimes have conflicting interests, there are some differences. But by and large, the major concerns are similar.

They want their families to be healthy and safe. They want their children to receive a good education. They want an economic climate in which businesses can grow and prosper.

That is something I have learned about the Texas legislature. We each represent very different districts. Urban, rural, rich, poor, minority, non-minority. Yet the core issues important to all of us are very similar.

You may hear about disagreements we have on which path we would take to reach our goals, but the real story I want you to know is that Texas has fine and hardworking legislators who care deeply about their constituents and who are working together for all Texans.

I have learned so many things serving in the Senate. I am not a lawyer, but I sure have learned a lot about our laws. Being a part of the process has given me an even greater respect for our constitution.

I am so grateful to live in a nation where any citizen can come and testify on legislation that is being considered.

And also to live in a state whose constitution calls for a citizen legislature -- a place where a doctor, a lawyer, a fireman, a preacher or a teacher, can be a legislator who makes the laws under which we live.

I have had a wide variety of experiences as a senator that I am sure I would not have otherwise had.

I have milked cows and pulled peanuts,

- talked with Nobel prize winners

- toured hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and factories

- been lowered by a crane into the supercollider tunnel

- yes, slid into a swimming pool full of Jell-O (but it was for charity)

- and will soon get to fly in an F-16.

But, by far, the most rewarding experiences I have had as a senator have been the people I have met. Not just in my own Senate district, but throughout this state.

Good, decent, hardworking, caring people from all walks of life. People who make Texas the great state that it is.

So, what are my plans as your Governor? Well, my first action this morning was to appoint my replacement to serve as senator for the day.

I wanted to select someone who shares my values, who I trust and respect. (and someone who is almost as conservative as I am). Without question, that person would be my husband and partner in life- Mike Nelson.

Senator Nelson, I couldn't have done any of this without your support and I thank you.

Do you realize that our children were 2,3,5,7 and 9 when I first ran for office? This guy is superdad!

And I have to publicly tell my children how much I appreciate their patience and support over the years. Of course, they grew up with this, so they think it's normal.

And my Dad. If you have spoken with my Dad at all today, I am sure he has told you that he knew I was a leader back when I was a four-year-old baton twirler leading a parade at the state capitol.

What he probably didn't tell you was that for the entire length of the parade he walked on the sidewalk right by me in case I got tired or needed help. He and my mother were always right there to support, encourage, and help if needed.

I have issued one pardon as governor. That would go to my brother, Walter, who submitted a formal request to be pardoned for all of the teasing over the years.

And finally, as Governor, I would like to propose some laws on three major issues:

First, EDUCATION:

I am told that I am the first elementary school teacher who has served as governor. As an educator, here is my solution to our education challenges.

I propose a law requiring that every child has someone who cares about that child's education. Key indicators would be someone who reads to the child, turns off the television and checks homework, praises good grades, and teaches respect for the teacher. I promise if that happens, our students will do better in school.

HEALTH:

As chair of the senate's health and human services committee, I am keenly aware of the serious health problems we have and would propose this law:

Every individual will take care of the body the good Lord gave you. Because you know what, we only get one.

Most of our most serious health problems ... and a large portion of our health care costs ... could be prevented if people would do things like ...

And finally, CRIME:

Here I would not need to create a law ... just convince people to obey one already in place, not just in Texas but around the world.

I learned it in Sunday School as the Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It is a concept that crosses every cultural, religious and economic divide, and every community in the world embraces it in one form or another.

Hinduism teaches: "One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself."

Islam: "Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself."

Judaism: "...thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

Native American Spirituality: "Respect for all life is the foundation."

As Governor, I am asking for your help. You see, the solutions to our greatest challenges are found in people. We each must do what we can to ensure a bright future for our children and grandchildren.

Certainly the government has a role, but I believe that the role of government is like that of my Dad when I was marching in that parade when I was 4 years old... protecting, being there to help if needed, offering support and encouragement.

This is your government ... your state capitol ... and your day to enjoy it.

Have a wonderful time. We have art, poetry and music from talented students representing every school district in our community.

It is an honor to serve as your governor today. May God bless you and your family. And may God continue to bless this wonderful state of Texas. Thank you so much.

(END)

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