Governor Phil Bryant’s Inaugural Address
Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice. Your willingness to administer the Oath of Office is sincerely appreciated as is your service to our state. Deborah and I are so happy to have you and Charlotte with us at this special occasion.
Today I am surrounded by family and friends who give me strength and support during this crowded hour. It is only by the grace of God and their unconditional love that I stand before you. Blessed far beyond my ability to understand, I remain resolute in my faith and humbled by their confidence.
I am joined by my two brothers who mean all the world to me and upon whose shoulders I stand. Close to me are my two children, who have been my greatest joy. A son-in-law who is a wonderful part of our family, a beloved mother-in-law and her children who have become my brothers and sisters.
And, of course, the woman who has been my highest inspiration. No one here today has been more sincere to her family, husband, and the wonderful people of this state. Deborah has been my First Lady for 39 years, and I am so grateful she will continue to be Mississippi’s First Lady.
As many of you know we have a new addition this year, our grandson Henry. I hope he can last through Papa’s remarks. I promised to make them brief.
I am extremely honored to have with us today Gov. William Winter. Please join me in thanking him for his dedication and commitment. I’m also pleased Cong. Steven Palazzo is here today, let’s welcome him.
Mr. Lt. Governor, this is our second opportunity to attend an inaugural address as servants of the people. We agree that the future success of our state and its citizens is our highest and most important priority. Thank you for your service, support and friendship. Let us pledge today to move together forward.
Mr. Speaker, you are a valued and trusted leader, not just in the Mississippi House of Representatives but to the people of Mississippi. It is your moral compass and strong affirmations of your beliefs that have helped guide the House membership to unparalleled success. I believe with Lt. Governor Reeves and your leadership, this great state can reach heights only once imagined. I pledge today to do all in my power for our shared service of success.
To the Legislature and other public officials, I offer an invitation to join us on this historic journey into Mississippi’s future. Working together, we can accomplish all that we imagine. Today, we begin by boldly taking the first step along the journey knowing that success is never easy or possible without willing sacrifice. I look to you all not for submission to a political agenda but for achievement of the people’s will, not our desires. We must understand in this great Republic, the people are sovereign, and we, their elected officials, are the servants.
And in support of this principal the founding fathers declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
In Mississippi, we have experienced mutual success when we adhere to these guiding principles. When we recognized the undeniable truth that all men are created equal in the eyes of God, we brought to an end the dark days of segregation. This occurred in large part through the determination of the civil rights movement and the courageous men and women who gave their very lives for freedom’s cause.
One such freedom is the opportunity to participate in the American dream. To take responsibility for one’s actions, to be gainfully employed, and to reap the benefits of hard work.
There is nothing more American than hard work. As President Reagan said, “I believe there is no better social program than a job.” Today you have my pledge to work as hard as humanly possible to make Mississippi the most job friendly state in America.
Our people are the best workforce in the nation, and we will make certain the world knows, in no uncertain terms, that Mississippi works. As a right to work state we have assured workers the freedom from intimidation and interference in their desire to seek economic security by helping them establish not just a job, but a career.
Through our continued belief in and support of the 2nd Amendment, we have protected all our law abiding citizens with their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. In today’s threatening world this right has become more important than ever before. As Governor, I defend it with unyielding dedication.
Since its founding, our freedoms have been defended by Americans who have put themselves in harm’s way. We are fortunate to have members of our military and veterans here with us today. They have protected everything we hold dear, and we are eternally grateful for their service.
Through passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act we have guaranteed the people their God-given and constitutional right to express their religious beliefs without government interference or persecution.
We have emphasized this freedom through the redesign of our state seal, and reaffirmed our national motto, “In God we Trust.” With the Special Needs and Charter Schools legislation, we have provided more choice to parents. They now have the liberty to send their children to the school where they can receive the best education and care. You see, individual liberty must exist for all our people, but they cannot be confused by the expectation of an individual or collective privilege.
There are rights in our society and there are privileges. For example, it should be a parent’s right, not just a privilege by income or social status, to take his or her hard earned tax dollars and send their child to a school they choose. Unfortunately, there are some who are content with keeping children trapped in failing schools.
We should heed the lessons of history and not stand in the school house doorway and resist school choice in the name of district integrity, or average daily attendance. I see little difference when a parent’s power to choose is taken away, whether by a school board or an offensive state law. If it is good for the child and preferred by the parents, let it be done.
Imagine with me a Mississippi where schools compete for students. Where we have a fair system of funding while insisting on a quality education for every child, in every school. Where good teachers are paid well and incompetent ones are replaced. Where early childhood learning will be available to all children when parents understand that education first begins in the home.
Unfortunately, not all parents are adequately prepared to begin this process. So we should assure some basic learning is available in child care centers. Particularly, those that are supported by your tax dollars.
Imagine a Mississippi where every classroom is designed for the students’ success, where its third graders must learn to read at grade level rather than being socially promoted. Where teen pregnancy doesn’t rob a child of an equal opportunity for success. A Mississippi in which 90 percent of high school students graduate and begin on a successful path to a career or college. This is not impossible. As national chairman of Jobs for America’s Graduates, I am proud to say our success rate with children at risk is 92 percent.
Teen pregnancy in Mississippi has been reduced by 22 percent, and the literacy program mandates third grade reading at a basic level before promotion. Last August, over 90 percent of Mississippi’s third graders passed their reading test.
Our public education reforms are being recognized nationally. In fact, the Foundation for Excellence in Education proclaimed just last year our efforts have “revolutionized” education policies in the Magnolia State.
We have also made huge strides in higher education. Our community college system has been named the best in America, and Mississippi State University was selected by the Federal Aviation Administration as America’s Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Research and Development.
We have worked hard in the past four years to expand health care access throughout our state. The University of Mississippi’s new medical school will open soon to train the doctors we so desperately need. A new state-of-the-art nursing school will soon begin classes on the Gulf Coast, a nationally recognized diabetes research program continues in the Delta, and a badly needed expansion of the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital is planned. Mississippi is leading the nation in telemedicine, becoming only one of seven states to receive an “A” rating with the American Telemedicine Association.
Results of promoting health care as an economic driver continue to grow in the metro medical corridor, and over a dozen Health Care Zones exist in rural and urban areas throughout Mississippi. A bio-collaboratory in Canton, a telemedicine support center in Jackson, and a new pharmacy school in Harrison County are just a few of the new businesses and career centers.
They have joined with our community colleges and universities in training the medical workforce of the future. It is my hope we will reflect on these accomplishments not far into the future and inscribe into our historical review . . . potential delivered.
Many of us have long believed the right to life should be equally guaranteed to the most vulnerable among us, the unborn child. Unfortunately other people across this nation and state do not.
It is this conflict in our society that has caused great consternation and disagreement. However, I have never moved from my core belief that an innocent life should be honored as a fellow human being and his or her basic civil rights protected. These children deserve their right to life. I will continue my efforts to make Mississippi the safest state in America for an unborn child.
I also believe being pro-life means an entire life. Especially for those children who live a nightmare of abandonment. It has become abundantly clear that we still have much progress to achieve in the lives of our foster children. Let me assure you here today, I intend on providing these children with our very best. As Christians, we can do no other.
Rest assured, I understand the challenges of the budget process. I have worked on our state’s budget for over 20 years now. But, I also realize that states such as our own have a moment in history where they will be judged by future generations. When generations hence ask what we did to protect the children who were abandoned and hurting, let us proudly say, we put them first.
No law ever written can give you true peace and happiness without first displaying your troubles upon the altar of forgiveness. My fellow Mississippians, the pursuit of happiness is a divine right that cannot be guaranteed by government. However, we can shape an environment where individuals have every hope of achieving personal happiness, particularly the children of Mississippi.
This must begin by encouraging every opportunity for a child to be born or adopted into a two parent home. Although this hope is not always possible, it should be favored by our laws, standards and customs.
Under this administration we will continue to defend family and religious values, encourage traditional marriage and hold young men accountable for their children’s well-being. We will do all that is necessary to prevent domestic violence and stop those who would harm the innocent or traffic in their anguish. These violations of every human’s basic right to happiness must become the center of our collective attention, and they must be stopped.
Imagine with me now, a Mississippi where every citizen who wants a job has one right here at home. Where every Mississippian can pursue the American dream here in what I have labeled today as “The Start-up State.” A state where business creators and entrepreneurs flourish. Where government is designed to support innovation and encourage economic growth.
Four years ago we imagined Mississippi doing big things in economic development. Now we can proudly boast our state is leading in advanced manufacturing in aerospace, defense systems, and warships. And we are home to two of the world’s leading automobile companies in Nissan and Toyota, which manufacture over 400,000 vehicles a year.
Work force training programs have been a part of our vision to help create a career, and every community college and universities’ measure of success rests on these outcomes. Not just students enrolled and obtaining degrees; but more importantly, the number who not only graduate, but find employment. A meaningful career can and will ensure their individual opportunity to pursue happiness, and not just find a job to repay student loans.
Recent events have shown us all that our state and nation face a new threat from acts of terrorism. Mississippians and all Americans have the right to be safe in their person and belongings. It is my belief the first and most important responsibility of the Governor is to provide protection to the citizens of this great State. I can promise each of you every measure has and will be taken to meet this obligation.
I have instructed our Department of Public Safety, Mississippi Homeland Security, Bureau of Narcotics and our Mississippi National Guard to work together to protect our people from any threats, both domestic and foreign. The drafter of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” This wisdom seems ever relevant today, and I will heed President Jefferson’s words. We shall be vigilant.
We must also confront challenges in our changing society where the lawless are given safe haven, and law enforcement officers are placed in harm’s way with the threat of violence against them. All of us must adopt a zero tolerance of this misguided mindset by supporting prosecution of the law breaker and protection of the law abiding.
Freedom cannot be sustained with a lawless society. I will use all resources at my disposal to support our courageous defenders of freedom and halt the assault on law enforcement.
For a short time today, I have described some of the things we have accomplished in the last four years and asked you to imagine Mississippi as it can be. It was my hope to give you a vision of our possibilities and opportunities. To imagine how incredible it is to be the birthplace of America’s music and the final resting place of blues icon B.B. King. To have produced some of the world’s greatest authors and artists. Imagine with all our historic challenges, decades of mischaracterization and a national narrative that has been less than desirable, we remain known around the world as the Hospitality State.
It is always easy to identify the things that are not as they should be or rally around problems not yet solved. But I believe most of us prefer a different path, well aware that we cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. We press on. As Governor of this great State, I believe we can rediscover inspiration. I imagine a people who have been tempered by difficulties, both of man and nature. A people who demand leadership unafraid of transformational change and disruptive innovation.
Just imagine a Mississippi of limited government, with limitless opportunities. It is right and beneficial for all of us who love this state dearly to imagine us assuming our proper place among the best in America. But only with earnest and determined action can we make our imagination become reality.
We have done so in the past, and I have no doubt here today, we can accomplish greatness. When I imagine Mississippi, I think of the words of our own Zig Ziglar, “You were designed for accomplishments, engineered for success and endowed with the seeds of greatness.”
These designs are not by accident, nor are they only recent. Our potential has always been here. Not in the form of new economic development or an undiscovered technology or a new government program. The seeds of greatness were planted generations ago inside every Mississippian.
We have always felt it within our hearts and souls. We have always known we could do great things. We could always Imagine Mississippi. It is now time to release our talents and potential. To rise together to a higher and better place.
In reality, that special place is where we have always been. It has always been here. Here in Mississippi.