2015 Inaugural Address
Gov. John Hickenlooper
Jan. 13, 2015
We have many distinguished guests and dedicated advocates for the state here with us this morning:
Governor Lamm and his wife, Dottie; our State Supreme Court Justices; the Senior Command of the Colorado National Guard; former Attorney General John Suthers, outgoing Secretary of State Scott Gessler …
Chairman Heart of the Ute Mountain Utes; Councilwomen Amy Barry and Tyson Thompson of the Southern Utes; representatives of several consulates: Norway, Morocco, Netherlands and Canada.
The 12 chairs of my Inaugural Committee, including Rick Sapkin, who has been a remarkably supportive friend and advisor …
Legislative escorts: Representatives Millie Hamner and Don Coram; and Senators Jerry Sonnenberg and Cheri Jahn ...
Our Masters of Ceremony, Senate President Bill Cadman and Speaker Dickie Lee Hollinghurst ...
And, of course, my extended family …
On behalf of myself and Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia -- whose perspective and support has been invaluable to me and to this state these past four years, especially when it comes to our education agenda -- our thanks to all of you who have gathered here today.
I know it’s chilly, but in your company we feel the warmth of friendship and support.
Four years ago, when I took the oath of governor, I stood on these steps and referenced what a wise man once told me: Humility has at least two essential ingredients—it is knowing that any aspect of your life can collapse in an instant, and sincere gratitude that it has not.
When I shared those words in my first Inaugural Address I thought I understood their meaning. I had experienced loss.
As young boy, I lost my father. As a young man, I lost my job as an exploratory geologist. And during those two years that I was out of work, I lost my confidence and began to question my self worth.
I had ALSO experienced a fair amount for which to be grateful. While I was unemployed, I launched a brew pub, then a few more. I found success in a new life as an entrepreneur. I met a wonderful woman, and we married and celebrated the birth of our son. I was twice elected mayor of Denver.
But during these last four years I have gained a much deeper appreciation for the meaning of that wise man’s words. I gained a deeper appreciation for the breadth and depth of what can collapse in an instant.
There was the seemingly endless string of wildfires and the flood waters that destroyed Colorado homes, ravaged communities, and took lives.
There were the horrific shootings. I attended more funerals during my first term than I had attended in the rest of my life. I watched parents weep by the coffins of their children.
A dear friend, Tom Clements—a man who personified public service—was assassinated while in service to this state.
Although it pales in comparison, in my own home, Helen and I found ourselves telling our son, Teddy, that his mom and dad were separating.
Teddy, thank you for your support and love. As I watch you grow into a young man, I am in awe of your maturity and generous spirit. You are an old soul and a constant source of pride for your mother and me.
Any one of those events of the last four years would get a person to do some soul-searching. All of them together … well, you can’t help but wonder why.
I found myself remembering some things my mother taught me: that we experience hard times so that we can better appreciate the good ones; that we are obliged to recognize and celebrate opportunities for joy; that each of us is responsible for shaping our own fate.
After my father died, she said that in life, we often cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond.
Mothers, as it turns out, really do know best.
Time and again, during the last four years, when we would rush to the scene of unspeakable and unforeseen tragedy I was awestruck by how Coloradans chose to respond.
In the chaotic aftermath at that movie theater in Aurora … at those communities where the stench and charred wreckage of homes was all that remained… throughout the towns where in an instant so much washed away … in Arapahoe County, where a young girl by the name of Claire Davis one moment was sitting on a bench, eating a chocolate chip cookie outside her high school library, and the next moment was fatally shot by a classmate …
I saw selflessness and heroics by first-responders and civilians alike, who put others above themselves.
I witnessed the remarkable courage and kindness of neighbors helping neighbors → strangers helping strangers.
I was invited into extraordinary acts of forgiveness and love.
Four years ago, when I stood here on these steps as a governor-elect, I knew enough to know I could never anticipate all of what was required of a governor, but I thought I had a pretty solid notion of what the job would entail.
I was wrong.
On this day as I stand before you and once again take the solemn oath to serve as your governor, I am not the same person that I was four years ago.
In the same way Colorado is not the same state it was four years ago.
We not only endured fires, floods and senseless violence, when we took office four years ago Colorado was in a precarious state:
We lagged behind most of the nation when it came to job growth. Our unemployment was more than 9 percent.
Our state budget had a billion dollar deficit, and we were putting only 2 percent of our state funds in an emergency reserve, a fund set aside for unexpected challenges like wildfires and floods.
Many of our roads, especially heavily traveled highways like I-70 and I-25, desperately needed improvement; the Front Range and Western Slope were engaged in long boiling war over water rights;
the budget for the state’s education system had been cut; the oil and gas industry and environmental leaders were more often at odds than at the table trying to find common ground;
same sex couples were denied the same rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that heterosexual married couples enjoy.
Now, our present is in stark contrast to that past.
Despite the unexpected challenges and heartbreaking events—according to any number of independent rankings, Colorado is one among the top three states in the nation when it comes to starting a business and overall economic growth and opportunity.
We cut our unemployment by more than half of what it was, to 4.1 percent.
Our budget is now balanced and we have 6.5 percent of our general fund dollars into Colorado’s emergency reserve.
We’ve expanded lanes of the Twin Tunnels the first expansion—the first major improvement project on I-70 between DIA and the Vail Valley, since the road was first constructed 40 years ago.
We reformed the State Constitution and now have the opportunity to recruit the best talent to work on behalf of Coloradans, and we instituted a system to cut red tape.
We now have a draft for the first statewide Water Plan in Colorado history, wherein the Front Range and Western Slope are moving forward together and managing our state’s most precious resource.
We have been restoring funding to the state’s education budget.
We brokered agreements on rules to disclose the contents of frack fluid and rules that eliminate methane gas emissions.
At long last, same sex marriages are legal.
Colorado is no longer in a precarious state → it is poised to be model state.
Much of Colorado’s economic success has been due to the risk-taking and investment of Colorado’s business community, the creativity of our innovators, and the hard work of the people throughout this state.
Another reason why Colorado has outperformed much of the nation has been because of our state’s economic development strategies, and our collaboration with the private sector.
My partner in that planning was Ken Lund, who served most of my first term as the Executive Director of the Office of Economic Development. As often happens when a first term ends and a second begins, some cabinet members transition to new lives of their own.
A couple of weeks ago, on his last day on the job, Ken sent out an email to the staff. In it, he shared his parting thoughts.
“My grandfather and father were builders,” Ken wrote. “One of the treasures of my family, passed from my grandfather to my father and now to my older brother, is a 1923 book entitled, “Audels Carpenters and Builder Guide.”
“The book,” Ken continued, “begins with a quote from John Ruskin which is as follows:
When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us ...
We should keep that quote in mind as we embark on the next four years and consider what we will build next.
There are many opportunities before us. We also face many challenges. Some challenges we cannot foresee. Others we know are looming. Chief among the challenges we know is our budget, a financial thicket.
Our State Constitution mandates that we increase our expenditures and simultaneously cut taxes.
If that does not sound like it makes much sense, that’s because it doesn’t. Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time.
However, it is also true that careful pruning can allow, quicker and stronger growth.
As we work to resolve this inherent conflict, we must constantly ask ourselves: What exactly are we proposing to build?
To borrow a phrase from the quote Ken Lund cited, is it something for our present day delight or something that will endure to serve future generations of Coloradans?
So, what will we build next?
We will continue to build a Colorado where economic opportunity is felt in every corner of the state and more people have a fighting chance to join the middle class; a Colorado where entrepreneurs flock to start a business, and the long-term unemployed can get back in the game.
Just last week, we launched an initiative that pulls together state resources from several departments, with the single-minded objective to assist the 47,000 Coloradans of our long-term unemployed, find work.
Having been among the long-term unemployed myself, I know that many of these people are assets eager to be harnessed —> eager to have a chance to earn their way and re-define themselves and to succeed.
We will continue to build a Colorado with the best managed government, where the foundation of our budget is stronger for generations to come.
A Colorado which is the healthiest state in the country, where we think holistically about the health of our citizens and how we serve them; where we promote access to quality, cost effective care; where we have the best in preventative care.
A Colorado where we continue to balance our treasured natural splendor with our energy development, holding industry and government to the highest standards; where we work together to protect, conserve, and invest our water.
A Colorado where all of our children have access to a first-rate education regardless of zip code; where funding for higher education is transparent, fair and gets results.
A Colorado with safe, livable communities that are free from discrimination and promote equality. This state, like our country, was built by immigrants;
A Colorado where infrastructure development supports the needs of our growing state population. We will pursue a strategy to add capacity to I-70 from DIA to the mountains, and on I-25 from Wyoming to New Mexico.
We will continue to build this Colorado, together—forging alliances among the public sector, the private sector and our non-profit community, recognizing that Colorado can reach its full potential only when all Coloradans are reaching their full potential.
While I have changed in some ways, here’s where I have not:
I remain a relentless—some would say an incorrigible optimist.
I believe there is no margin in making enemies.
I believe that if we are willing to compromise and collaborate on what may seem like an imperfect solution, it is far better than if we cling to entrenched positions and work against one another in pursuit of different, allegedly perfect solutions.
Progress, even if incremental, is better that gridlock.
I believe that people are happiest when they are helping others.
In fact, today, we are announcing the Random Acts of Kindness campaign.
Our hope—our goal— is that Coloradans will perform 10,000 random acts of kindness between now and July 14, which marks the start of third Biennial of the Americas in Denver.
I believe that no one party, no one person has all the answers.
While I will always give great weight to the facts, I believe I must also consult my heart and my conscience, and I will always look for the solution that is of the greatest benefit for the most Coloradans.
I tend to believe that trust is born of shared experience, and in a shared belief that every one of us matters.
And I am grateful and I am honored that I have earned your trust.
We have been through a lot, together.
We have overcome a lot, together.
And, together, we will continue to build a Colorado not just for our present day use and delight, but a Colorado that gives every Coloradan a fair chance at prosperity, opportunity and joy for the decades to come.
One other way I haven’t changed is that I believe Colorado is a place that will be defined more by its future than by its past.
That future begins today.
And I am eager and honored to get on with it.