Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Mr. Governor

Governor Charlie Crist delivers his inaugural address after being sworn in as the 44th Governor of the State of Florida on the east portico of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida January 2, 2007.

Gov.-elect Charlie Crist became Gov. Charlie Crist at noon today on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee.

After a upbeat prayer breakfast at Florida A&M University - where gospel star Vicky Winans took center stage - events moved out to the Old Capitol on what turned out to be an overcast day. Despite the lack of sunlight, Gov. Crist focused on sunshine and optimism during his inaugural address.

Crist began by paying tribute to outgoing Gov. Jeb Bush:

"Ladies and gentlemen, for the last eight years this state has been led by a great governor; a man who in my opinion is the greatest governor in America. Gov. Jeb Bush showed us how government can pursue audacious goals with vision and integrity."

"After eight years, our taxes are lower, one million more people are earning paychecks in new jobs, and thousands more of our students are receiving a year’s worth of knowledge in a year’s worth of time."

"Governor, your legacy will be those and other successes — not the least of which was your commitment to our safety. Through eight hurricanes in 15 months, you, my friend, were the beacon of light, our unparalleled leader when times were tough. On behalf of everyone who calls this state home, I thank you for your service. You will be missed, but you will never be forgotten — Gov. Jeb Bush."

Crist then placed Florida at the pinnacle of Reagan's "shining city upon a hill":

President Ronald Reagan described America as a shinning city on a hill. If that is true, and I know that it is, than Florida is the shinning state on the mountain top. Florida is a state more than any other that defines the breathtaking scope of our American experience. It was here that Europeans first ventured into the New World, and it was from here that genius and courage took mankind to the moon. It is Florida where America literally reaches for the stars. And yet, despite these past accomplishments, there is no greater time in our history than right now.

The governor next turned to the key issues facing Floridians: rising property insurance rates and property taxes. Crist pledged to work with the legislature in a special session this month to find a solution to the insurance crisis.

Two weeks from today the Legislature will convene in a special session to address the insurance crisis. I pledge the full resources of my office to work with the leaders of the House and the Senate along with our new chief financial officer to bring our people the relief that they need and deserve.

Crist promised to expand the reach of Florida commerce beginning with a trade mission to Israel.

Like Gov. Bush, Crist promised to make education a central theme of his administration:

But Florida cannot be an economic leader and a jobs producer unless every child is receiving a world-class education. And as a proud product of Florida’s public schools, I know that the essential ingredient in a first class education is our teachers. We must continue to recruit and retain the very best and brightest to teach our children, and we must pay them more.

We have no higher priority, no higher calling, than to make sure our children are prepared, not only to participate, but to lead in the highly competitive global economy. With the Internet, modern travel and transportation, the global economy is at our doorstep. Our children don’t have to look forward to greater opportunities, we need to give them every opportunity. We need to make sure that they’re ready. It is our highest calling, and our most important responsibility. We need to continue on a path of making Florida’s education the gold standard. We can and we will.

Crist wrapped-up his remarks by announcing the creation of the Office of Open Government, which he said will begin by executive order as soon as tomorrow. This has been a major theme of his transition team. Finally, Gov. Crist recalled his grandfather's immigrant beginnings and his rise to the state's highest office:

My grandfather Adam Christodoulos came to this country from his native Cypress as a penniless, 14-year-old boy. He could not speak the language, he didn’t know anyone, but he had a dream. He had a dream about coming to a place called America where he had heard that if you worked hard, lived by the rules, did what was right, that you could do better for yourself and for your family. When my grandfather Adam came here, he worked hard, he shined shoes for a living, he made $5 a month — not a lot but it was good honest work.

And while my grandfather is no longer here today, he is here, he’s in my heart. And
I know, because I believe in God, that he can see this moment and I’m sure he’s
proud that his grandson has just become the governor of the fourth largest state
in the greatest country on the face of the earth.

Now that the formalities of taking office are behind him, the real challenges of governing are before the new governor. If he can follow-up on the commitments enumerated in his inaugural address, Gov. Crist will certainly be off to a great start.

Read the complete text of Crist's inaugural address here.

Changing of the Guard

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