Mr. Chief Justice, Governors Daniels and Bayh, Senators Coats and Donnelly, Lt. Governor Ellspermann, Attorney General Zoeller, Superintendent Ritz, Members of the Congress, General Assembly, Judiciary, other state officials, friends and fellow Hoosiers:
For the 50th time in our state’s storied history, a new administration has peaceably taken office as a living testament to the strength of our constitution and the character of our people.
I am humbled by your trust, honored that you have chosen me to serve, and I am eager to be the governor of all the people of Indiana-young and old, city and country, rich and poor. We are all Hoosiers. As Indiana approaches our bicentennial, I know that together we will write the next great chapter in Indiana history!
Permit me to begin by thanking God whose grace and mercy have sustained us every day that we have served the people of Indiana and sustains us still.
To my beloved wife Karen and our children Michael, Charlotte and Audrey, whatever small contributions may flow from my public service are only possible because of your love and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
No one can assume this office without gratitude to those who shouldered its responsibilities before. I am grateful to my predecessors. We honor them all: Governor Whitcomb whose patriotism and individualism exemplify Hoosier character and Governor “Doc” Bowen whose caring bedside manner led a state through a season of reform. We honor the memory of Governor Orr whose graciousness and vision began a season of education reform ahead of its time.
We honor Governor Bayh whose youthful energy and frugality defined Indiana in the 1990s.
We honor the memory of Governor O’Bannon, whose civility and good will remain vivid examples for all in public life, and we honor Governor Kernan, who steadied us at a time of shock and sorrow, and faced with determination and grace challenges he had not sought.
And to Governor Mitch Daniels, on behalf of a grateful people, I thank you and Cheri for all your service, for leaving our state the fiscal and administrative envy of the nation. You leave office the most respected governor in America. It’s a good thing I am only succeeding you, because no one can ever replace you.
I accept the responsibilities of this office with gratitude and boundless confidence in you, my fellow Hoosiers. We have good government, but make no mistake about it-our state is poised for greatness. The core of that greatness remains our people.
Hoosiers have strong opinions and stronger hearts. They are hardworking, honest, patriotic and, best of all, generous to those in need. From the civility of our public discourse, to the selflessness of Hoosier warriors defending us around the world , to the generosity of volunteers serving early morning coffee to first responders in Henryville, I have seen firsthand the goodness and kindness of our people manifest itself in countless ways. I say without apology: Indiana is the heart of the heartland because Hoosiers are the best people on earth.
No one pretends that times are easy, or that the challenges we face are small. But we Hoosiers are a resilient lot. It’s been that way from the beginning.
Indiana was the first state born in the aftermath of the War of 1812. Our state was not settled by seekers of gold or fortune, by people who dreamed of a life of ease. Our forebears were builders, farmers-people of fortitude and courage, men and women who chose to brave harsh weather and hardship to build their future and build a new state in an untamed land, a land one young Hoosier called “a wild region, with many bears and wild animals in the woods.”
That Hoosier was none other than Abraham Lincoln, describing the state where he grew from a boy to a man. Where his family would carve themselves a meager livelihood from the wilderness forest. A state where he would bury his mother and sister before his twenty-first year. Here he learned the Hoosier values that would guide his life and service, and would lead our Nation through the fiery trial of the Civil War.
As Governor Otis Bowen often said, “Lincoln made Illinois, but Indiana made Lincoln!”
Our first state Constitution was written under the shade of an elm tree in Corydon in 1816 by mostly ordinary men, common citizens and frontiersmen. In writing our state’s charter, early Hoosiers lit a beacon of civilization, hope and freedom in the old Northwest Territory. One hundred years later, that fact would inspire the design of our state flag.
Crafted during the state’s 1916 centennial celebration, our flag, as you can see, displays a gold torch on a field of blue surrounded by an outer circle of thirteen stars. Those thirteen stars represent the thirteen original colonies of the United States and the inner five stars represent the next five states admitted to the Union. The largest star, positioned at the top of the torch, represents Indiana.
Our flag signifies that in a time of uncertainty, Indiana raised up a torch of liberty and enlightenment that banished the darkness, lit the way to the American West, and has become an enduring beacon ever since.
For many Americans today is another, if different, time of uncertainty. It is a time where the disconnect between those who serve and the served has never seemed wider. Where the common sense of everyday people seems absent from public life.
But not here in Indiana. Indiana has chosen a different course.
Because of our leadership these past eight years and the service of thousands of dedicated public servants, Indiana has emerged as a torch of fiscal responsibility, innovation and reform.
While many of our sister states-some on the coasts, and some nearby-are struggling, our state is poised for an era of growth like no other in our life time.
This is our time to shine.
But to whom much is given, much will be required.
We dare not squander this moment with complacency or self-congratulation. With so many Hoosiers hurting in this economy, we must meet this moment with resolve, determined to leave our state more prosperous, our children more prepared, and our communities and families stronger than ever before
With so many families and businesses struggling just to get by, we have no choice but to remain bold, optimistic and relentless in our work until good jobs, great schools, safe streets and strong families become the hallmark of every community in this state!
This we must do.
This we will do.
If the past eight years showed us anything, it’s that Hoosiers are willing to do hard things, to embrace change, to demand a government as good as our people. To build schools of promise and policies that will ensure jobs and opportunities for this generation and the next.
To do this we must continue to live within our means, hold the line on spending, and let Hoosiers keep more of their hard-earned income.
We must work together to put kids first. There’s nothing that ails our schools that can’t be fixed by giving parents more choices and teachers more freedom to teach. As my school teacher wife often reminds me, Indiana has some of the best teachers in the world.
And because our present challenges are not just economic in nature, we must also seek ways to strengthen the institutions that nurture the character of our people, most especially the family.
This is Indiana’s moment. We can once again light the way.
We can put Hoosiers back to work and make Indiana first-first in job creation, first in education and first in quality of life.
Each of us has a role to play. Each of us has a torch to light.
Whatever it is you can do, do. Improve yourself and you will improve your state. Invest in Indiana with your time and talent. Tell Indiana’s story. If you have a job, work at it as never before. If you serve the people, serve with all your heart. If you can build a business, do. If you can start a business, try. If you have a dream, reach for it.
Make your community a better place to live, and we will all have a better life. Raise a child. Read to them and teach them they live in a place where dreams come true, because they do.
As legendary Hoosier John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.”
Do your part and I promise you, we I will do ours.
Together, we will build a more prosperous future. Together, we will open doors of educational opportunity for all our kids. Together, we will approach our third century with confidence. And Indiana will again become a torch of opportunity and hope, inspiring us and our nation.
The time is now and the air is cold, so let’s get back inside and get to work! The best IS yet to come!
Thank you, God bless you, and may God continue to bless Indiana.