Listen to Missourinet’s presentation of Republican Governor Mike Parson’s Monday evening rare address to a joint session of the state Legislature at the state capitol in Jefferson City.
Thank you, Speaker Richardson, President Pro Tem Richard, and members of the Missouri House and Senate.
First, let me start by introducing my wife Teresa to you. I’m so proud to recognize her as the First Lady of the State of Missouri. She is a blessing to all of us.
I stand before you at a difficult time for our state.
During this time, we have witnessed politics at its worst and at its best. We have been divided, and we have been united. Missouri has risen to the occasion, as we always do.
Today is a time for a fresh start for our state and to recommit ourselves – each and every one of us, including you in the galleries – we must work together for a better Missouri!
We faced difficult truths; we made tough decisions; we persevered because our institutions are strong, and the people of Missouri are stronger.
Over the last 200 years, more than 7,000 Missourians have been elected to a state legislative or constitutional office.
These were honorable men and women—people just like you and me—who temporarily put aside their personal obligations, traveled to the seat of government, and took an oath to do the people’s businesses.
And like so many of you, most were not looking to build a career. They were not here for fame or glory or notoriety. They placed their names on the ballot, staked out positions on issues, endured the inevitable attacks that come with campaigning, and walked into this building because they were called to be a public servant.
We stand here today in a long legacy of citizen patriots from across the state of Missouri who have answered the call of duty – and we salute their service!
One hundred years ago, the governor’s mansion and the seats in this chamber were occupied by people whose names most of us don’t remember.
And one hundred years from now, long after each of us has departed from this earth, these seats will continue to exist, held by men and women whose grandparents have not even been born.
Make no mistake: the offices we now hold are far bigger than any one of us.
Future Missourians may look back at the journals of the House or the Senate from this legislative session, and they will see our names. They will know our party affiliations. They will see the votes we cast. But none of these things will define who we are.
The responsibility of our jobs was given to us by our forefathers by passing down the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
Our job – the job of each and every one of us – is to continue that tradition, which is the framework to be able to live the American Dream and ensure it exists for the next generation. And our job is also to honor the memory of those who have come before, and to applaud those yet to come who will leave their permanent mark on our great state of Missouri.
What we must ask ourselves: Have we been respectful to our constituents, to our colleagues, and to our state? Have we acted morally and ethically? Have we honored the people of our great state who sent us here? How we answer these questions will define who we are.
For many of you, this will be the first and last office you ever hold—but what you do during your brief time matters. It matters to the student and the teacher. It matters to the truck driver and the small business owner. It matters to the police officer and the prisoner. It matters to the worker and the employer. It matters to the nurse and the farmer. But it’s not just the votes you cast or the bills that are signed; it’s how we respect the institution that has temporarily been entrusted to our care.
We are expected to debate passionately for what we believe – but we must be careful not to erode the public’s trust in our system of government for short-term personal gain.
The government our forefathers established make us unique in the world and sets America apart as a shining city on the hill!
We should expect criticism and understand that some of it is unfair—but we must always take responsibility for our own actions.
Most of all, we must always remember that we serve the people and the state of Missouri—not the other way around.
Sadly, much of the political turmoil that has engulfed our state is a result of these truths being forgotten.
When the public’s trust is violated, we are obligated to act.
Over the past few months, I have been impressed by the care, prudence, and professionalism you have shown as you have sought the truth.
I am in awe, once again, of the fortitude of our state’s institutions.
But our institutions are only as strong as the people who serve them—and the great State of Missouri is better because of your service.
Today, in this chamber, we have the opportunity for a fresh start. To elevate the tone of our political discourse. To recommit ourselves to the values that made our system of government the envy of the world.
This does not mean disregarding our beliefs or moderating our positions. It means debating with respect. It means conducting ourselves with integrity. It means unifying around the idea that—no matter which party we belong to—each of us is here for the same reason: to make Missouri… a better place.
Too many people have come to believe that dysfunction and inaction are the normal conditions of government.
But over the past few months, you—the members of the Missouri General Assembly—have proven that effective leadership is possible. Among you, there are profound disagreements, yet throughout the legislative session, you respected each other, you respected the process, and you respected the people of this state. And in the midst of political strife, you debated and argued passionately for issues you cared about.
Not long ago you completed one of the most historic legislative sessions in recent memory. Not enough has been said about it. Your many legislative achievements include significant tax reform for Missourians, record education funding for our students, government union reform, a responsible, balanced budget, and many other reforms that made government smaller, more efficient, and more effective for Missourians.
This is how government should work, and this is the people’s government and we—all of us in this room—can ensure that it continues to work in the years ahead.
As we move forward, together, I pledge that I will spend every day working to make our state stronger and more prosperous. I promise that the welfare of the people will be my guiding principle and sole consideration. And I will never forget – never forget – that public service is—first and foremost—is about serving Missourians.
I hope that each of you will join me.
During this time, I am reminded by a passage in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility… count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interests of others.”
With your prayers—and the prayers of millions of Missourians—for me and my family, for all of our political leaders, and for our state, I am confident that our wounds will heal and the bonds that bind us together as Missourians will strengthen. And now more than ever, I am optimistic that we will move forward, as President Abraham Lincoln urged in the closing days of the Civil War, “with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on… to finish the work we are in… to bind up the nation’s wounds.”
May God bless you…and may God bless the great state of Missouri!