Lt. Governor Opening Remarks
Remarks of Lt. Governor David Zuckerman
January 5, 2017
It is an honor and a pleasure to be here before you starting the new 2017-18 biennium. Each of us has spent the last summer and fall, and maybe longer, working with our respective constituents from around the state to earn their support, listen to their ideas, and understand their struggles. I want to thank the citizens of Vermont who elected me and entrusted all of us with the future of our state. I would also like to thank my family, Rachel and Addie, who have supported me through 18 years of public service. I know each of us have stretched our family’s patience with the rigors of campaigning and service to the state of Vermont. In thanking my family, I also want to extend appreciation to each of your families on behalf of all Vermonters.
As we reflect on policy we look to our families, our elders’ experiences and our children’s creativity and goals. In this way, we are reflections of all Vermonters. As we work together we also become family with all the positives and baggage that entails, but if we do it right we are all able to support each other.
Each biennium brings new challenges and opportunities. Some issues are ongoing and need adjustments. Others are new surprises brought upon us by influences outside of our control; natural disasters, decisions in neighboring states, Federal changes in law, even international events, can impact the decisions we have to make, that will in turn, impact each and every Vermonter.
This biennium is marked by significant changes in both the Federal Government and leadership here at the state level. But the beauty of our system of governance is that there is also stability within moments of change. All the new leadership comes from within and I know we all have great respect for our state and the process of working together to resolve the issues we face.
Since the election in November, many Vermonters have expressed to me their concerns about the state of our Democracy. They are concerned about the division, the mistrust, and fears of what this recent Federal election represents for our values, our differences, and our democracy. My steady response has been that we in Vermont can set an example for the country. Just as we always have, we will continue to work together regardless of occasional political differences. Here in Vermont we value our motto, “Freedom and Unity.” This includes the freedom to have very different viewpoints as well as the understanding that our state is better-served when we come together in unity to solve our challenges.
We will stand together and prove we are stronger when we welcome the diversity of our state and the opportunities the 21st century brings. I am reminded of the Calvin Coolidge quote in the great hall of our State House. He said, "If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the Union and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont." By respecting and valuing the experience and expertise each of us brings we can be a beacon for the country. We can be one example of political civility, of community building rather than dividing.
Now, I ask you to turn over the box on your desk. Within it, you will find a simple dry bean. Each one of these heirloom beans holds genetic similarities to each of the others around the room, but each also holds its own unique traits. One may be more tolerant to a pest or a disease. Another may be able to thrive in slightly more adverse conditions. One may require sandy soil while another needs fertile loam. I have given you these beans to reflect on with respect to our children, ourselves, and our future. Each child has unique qualities and the potential for success and each deserves an environment where they can blossom. It is our job to ensure that the best environment for each child is provided. As we work together we must acknowledge that home situations, academic opportunities, quality of food, and healthcare access are just some of the environmental conditions we must nurture to ensure our children and our collective future will thrive. Let's work together to ensure Vermont’s future generations have the nurturing environment needed to be successful.
As I reflect on the work ahead of us I am reminded of what I love about campaigning and public service: the opportunity to connect with Vermonters from every corner and every walk of life. If we are going to develop truly sustainable, inclusive solutions we will need to rely on their ideas, their experiences, and their expertise. I encourage you all to continue to connect with constituents, invite them to the State House, hold local meetings, keep the doors of communication open. The creativity, determination, expertise, and drive of Vermonters is a resource we cannot afford to waste.
Vermonters come from many different circumstances and many different corners of the world. Let us not forget it is our job to ensure each has the resources required to succeed. Many Vermonters are working much more than full time and still not able to provide for their basic needs. Our schools and teachers are facing additional challenges as they try to be social service providers as well as educators. Our rural economy and farmers are challenged by a rapidly changing climate. Our air, soil, rivers, lakes, and planet are in crisis and need our immediate attention. Higher education, college and technical training is still out of reach for many. And the opiate crisis has had a tight grip on many and is damaging families and communities.
So, as we work to better our state; clean our water, build our soil, feed our families, create new jobs and opportunities, remember that each person, like each seed your hold, has something unique and positive to offer and each is also shaped by the environment around them. If we can each dig for some patience when confronted with a tense situation, and if we can be the example for the rest of our country of thoughtfulness in the moments of intensity, we will all make Vermont a better place for everyone. Vermonters have put their faith in us, and, in knowing each of you, I have trust in their faith and wisdom. Let’s do well by them.