Earl Warren

30th Governor, Republican

First Inaugural Address

Delivered: January 4, 1943

Second Inaugural Address - January 6, 1947
Third Inaugural Address - January 8, 1951


We meet here today under conditions which strip the occasion of all gloss and pompous ceremony.

We meet as men and women assembled to undertake an emergency task—a task which for fulfillment will require that adherence to unity of purpose which we find in our fighting men as they respond to the call to their battle stations.

We meet here as representatives of the people of California in an hour of crisis. Hourly, thousands of those whom we represent will be offering their lives to protect our right to meet.

I feel that you legislators sitting before me will rise to a man in seconding the declaration that we must not leave these halls without a record of accomplishment in keeping with need. I know we are in agreement in the abstract thought that we have a patriotic duty to perform. But, more than that, I believe we are in agreement that we must immediately remove all mental barriers and get to work.

Thus, as we assemble at our battle stations, I appear before you, not only in compliance with statute, but because of an earnest wish to give you an understanding of my own thoughts in regard to our critical problems. I want to work with you. What we undertake and accomplish here during the next few months will radiate an influence upon the present and future well-being of every Californian and will contribute to the strengthening of the position of our Nation which is, in its entirety, being harnessed to the requirements of unprecedented mechanized global warfare.

The meaning of war—its compulsions, its disruptions, its distortions and its cold inclemency already shadows our lives and encompasses our thoughts. This Nation is, I repeat, caught in its entirety in the current of global strife. Where the ship of democracy sails we will sail for we are an integral part of the ship. We in California constitute a vital part of the ship structure—the exposed side of the ship at water’s edge.

Clear Thinking Required

As representatives of the people of California, we have been entrusted to find ways ofgearing the machinery of State Government so as both to absorb the shocks imposed by war and to alleviate the severity of postwar uncertainties.

In rising to the abnormal responsibility imposed, it is obvious that we must cut out all the dry rot of petty politics, partisan jockeying, inaction, dictatorial stubbornness and opportunistic thinking. We must seek with singleness of purpose to make use of every fiber of energy that can be tooled to close the niches of weakness which exist and harden the resistance to impacts to come.

There has never been a period in our history when the need for understanding and appreciation of the true concepts of democracy was so important. Nor has there been a session of the California Legislature at which the full use of democratic processes was more imperative.

We are in the midst of an era in which doubt has been cast upon the efficiency of democratic government. We are at war because in another land a power-mad sign painter capitalized upon the distress of a depressed and confused people to seize dictatorial powers. Once mobilized he raised his challenge to free men the world over in the belief that the Achilles heel of free government would be its indecision and slowness to act.

Our fighting men are disproving his false theory on far-flung battle fronts today but the theory will not be repudiated with finality until a double victory has been achieved. We glory in the caliber of our fighting men but let it never be considered that they alone are carrying the responsibility of our day. Confronting us here on the home front is an equally imperative challenge—the challenge for perfection of that for which they fight—the broadening of popular understanding, faith and reliance in the machinery of democracy and its religious ideals.

We gather here in accordance with the democratic principles for which young men from our home towns are manning guns in Tunisia, over North Africa, over Burma, on Guadalcanal, in Iceland, England, over all continents of the world and on each of the seven seas. We have seen the signs of confusion arise over the slowness of democracies to function. Ours is an opportunity to restore confidence in those who have become distraught and misguided. Ours is an opportunity to strengthen faith in men’s ability to work together for the common good.

I would not be here addressing you today if the people of this great State had not made their own analysis of their common problems and ordered a change in administration. They sent you here as legislators and honored me with the Governorship for one reason alone—they expect us to work together and produce results. They rely upon our ability to fix our minds upon common objectives which are in their interests and reach achievement in goals through cooperative action.

I share in this reliance. It is one of the reasons I have said many times that the immediate restoration of good will in California will be one of my primary objectives. I want to see State Government achieve a balance obtainable only through warm cooperation and courteous consideration. I recognize you, the Legislature, as a coordinate branch of democratic government, possessed of the dignity and the right to meet when you desire, and to plan and initiate legislation which is just as much in keeping with the public wish as that which I may suggest. I want to restore and maintain a balance of understanding and confidence which, through mutuality of effort, facilitates action in behalf of the people as a whole.

Californians Are Not Timid

As we approach our respective tasks let me say: This State has never been afraid to be progressive. It has never been afraid to try new things which it understood. I know that you as legislators are responsive to the ideals, principles and forward outlook which has so pronouncedly dominated California thought and that you share in the belief of the voters that no clique, no faction, and no party holds priority on all the rights of helping the common man.

I come before you today with a list of suggestions which I consider in need of immediate legislative attention. In making these suggestions, let me say at the outset that I believe we must, in facilitating the war effort, pursue what might be termed a policy of first things first. That which is involved in the war effort must of necessity be given preference.

There has accumulated in California a wide range of subject matter which, broadly interpreted, comes under the heading of “wartime legislative needs.” Some of it calls for remodeling and streamlining existing social and humanitarian endeavors which show the strain of war conditions. Some of it calls for progressive innovations which correct abuses and advance the considerations given those engaged in war effort. Much of it calls for the introduction of broad protective programs which will blossom forth with their peak benefits after the war has ended. And, some of it is strictly martial in character, the direct result of our specific position as a theater of war.

The impelling force of your session will be the need for action in compliance with the needs of war. In part, these war-time needs arise from aggravations of long-existing needs among the people. They loom as emergency in character today but they do so primarily because they have so far failed to win proper evaluation in our long-range planning. Ours is the challenge of so streamlining government that its efficiency meets the need of the day and at the same time moves forward in the recognition of older problems which we see accentuated by war.

In the latter we will meet the test of our knowledge of needs and also the test of our progressivism.

Must Protect Public Health

There has arisen in California since the conditions of war became so manifest, a tremendous problem involving public health. Long-established cities have found themselves transformed by population shifts into communities with burdens exceeding all previous conception. Even more startling has been the transformation of mere trailer camps into communities faced with the sanitary responsibilities of large cities.

Behind the outward veneer of these remarkable developments lurks a problem which must be given recognition by government. The strain upon sanitary facilities, the arrival of new peoples, and the extra hours of human effort required by war needs join in creating a health problem of undeniable magnitude. As we approach this problem, we must keep in mind the necessity of long range planning for the day will come when California becomes the funnel through which men, now fighting in strange lands throughout the world, will be returned to normal contacts. The tests of our ability to control and resist disease are destined to increase.

New Problems Confront Women

In our efforts to build protective services to the highest point of efficiency, we must direct new thought to those unprecedented considerations forced upon us by the emergency participation of women in war effort. We have seen women, by the thousands, respond patriotically to the call to relieve men needed elsewhere in war activities and, as they have responded, we have recognized the imposition of new strains upon our social structure. We must recognize that women have assumed their emergency burdens at the sacrifice of normal home life, normal family contacts and also, at the as yet unmeasured risk of impairment of health.

We must survey this field in its entirety to determine the extent to which human values are involved, for numbered among its deeper aspects is the question of stability of family influence. There must be no weakened generation in California chargeable to failure of the State to recognize the strains of this emergency upon either child welfare or sacrifices called for on the part of our women.

While our schools must, of necessity, perform services in connection with the war effort, we must guard against being sidetracked from appreciation of their fundamental purpose. We must remember that the schools are maintained for the training of our youth. Democracy is not a static form of government. It is maintained by constant struggle. Every generation finds a new assault being made against it by new forces with new devices and the struggle for freedom is always the greatest task of the future as it has been throughout the past. The permanence of a democracy will therefore depend upon the training and inspiration provided for its youth.

Nor should we permit the hysteria of war times to cause neglect in our responsibility to such of our youth as loses its way in these times of uncertainty. We want a program for child welfare designed to bring out the best in every child.

In this field there lies a neglected opportunity through which we can make a great additional contribution of future welfare. From out of a long experience in law-enforcement work. I have come to feel with certainty that we have been making a wrong approach to our crime problem. I am convinced we must revise our programs so that the emphasis is place upon prevention instead of suppression. If we can bring our juvenile courts, our trial courts, our law-enforcement agencies and our penal institutions into harmony with such an approach, I am confident we will have made a definite contribution to our future welfare.

We have, I feel, already agreed upon the necessity of expanding the influence of the California Youth Correction Authority. I visualize such transfers and consolidations of existing agencies as will streamline, under this authority, all services in the interests of youth in dire need of a helping hand. In broader aspect, I visualize adherence to a policy in all government activities that reflects a sincere desire to help men, women and children to develop and unfold the best that is within them—something that can never be done under a policy which places reliance almost entirely upon crime suppression.

Penal Reform Necessary

In our efforts to rehabilitate those whose missteps in adult life have led to State assumption of responsibility, I want to take every bit of politics out of the parole system and the pardoning power. I shall appoint to the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles only men of character, experience and a healthy normal approach of our prison problems. We must make certain that those who are paying their debt to society are not ground further into the mire by the pressure of the cruel heel of politics.

People, men, women and children, can not develop the best that is within them without doing useful work. Our practice of matter-of-fact confinement of people without affording them, through work, an outlet for body and mental energy, is wholly wrong. I want to stimulate the employment of all people in our penal institutions. I want to see them engaged in activities which develop their bodies and spur their desire to be restored to society.

I shall later ask you to consider a new approach to the parole problem. There lies within most men who have been removed from ordinary contact with society, a desire to prove their right to the confidence of their fellow man. Procedure could be established under which these men could be restored to community life and permitted, through rightful living, to earn pardon recognition from the courts in the community in which they have demonstrated a right to such consideration.

Local Government

As we approach the serious emergency problems which have arisen as a result of the war, I want to express the hope that there can be developed a new co-relation between the efforts of cities, counties and State agencies. I believe that the very essence of democracy is the right of people to govern themselves and this starts in local communities. Our State administration must be responsive to the needs of the people and it must counsel with and be ever regardful of the thoughts of smaller units of government. I say this because I believe it to be fundamental. People retain their interest in government only as they are encouraged to participate in it, and it is in local government that we find the greatest opportunity for participation and therefore the greatest reflection of public will.

Man-power Utilization

We must, in our State Government, increase the flexibility of all agencies which are not yet fully participating in the war effort and break down those barriers which retard decision and action. In accomplishing this we will be doing no more than accepting the responsibility of leadership which is expected. We face no greater immediate challenge than to turn loose the full power of State energy in search of solutions for which farm, industrial and labor groups are now groping as they strive to meet unprecedented production demands.

We have desperate need at the moment of advancing in the solution of our critical farm labor problem. Our contribution to the better utilization of such man power as is available will come only after study of the participation that can be expected of our men, women and children and of possible supplemental labor from sources developed in cooperation with the Federal Government. We must make certain that this study is not prolonged beyond the present brief seasonal respite from peak demand.

Our State has mushroomed in industrial growth and at the same time made heavy contributions to the armed forces. Proper emergency utilization of all labor otherwise available is becoming a matter, not only of State, but of National concern. It rises as a problem which we must recognize as far too serious to be hampered by false conceptions or the delays of red tape.

Supplementing this urgency consideration of man-power utilization there must be launched a companion study of postwar utilization. Patriotic duty is now causing dislocations which will later sorely test our recuperative powers. Yet, I hold that it is possible to plan now in a manner which will add to our strength when these postwar tests occur.

California of the Future

The California I visualize after the war is not one which we have so far known. It is a greater California—a California which has recognized its resources and opportunities and made them ready for peacetime utilization.

There have been introduced into California during recent months vast shipbuilding, aircraft and war material industries which came here, not as a result of normal competitive advantages, but as a result of Nationally directed war effort. Regardless of how they came, they are shaping the destiny of our State and changing our economy. Whether these sources of man-power utilization and productive energy remain with us after the war will depend, in a large measure, upon our appreciation of opportunity.

If we are to move forward rapidly after the war, we must do those things required to attract and hold these and other industries in competition with the rest of the world. To hold them we must make for ourselves every advantage which our geographical position, our climate , the rich deposits in our hills, and our many other resources permit. We must probe beneath the surface and exploit those advantages which have heretofore been but vaguely recognized.

Proper development of these and other resources will inescapably call for new considerations in connection with highway planning. Here again is an activity of State Government which I hope can be raised to a scientific level far above the hindrances of petty politics. In substitute for a wholly political highway commission, I believe there should be set up a division of highways which will utilize in the full the research and planning done by our capable State engineers.

Ours is the task of so planning the conservation and development of our resources that industry feeds upon them for its own peacetime recovery and in so doing increases the utilization of our man power. In pursuance of this task we will be adhering to what I believe to be a fundamental principle of democratic government—the encouragement of free enterprise in a manner which benefits the people as a whole. I hold to the conviction that government and industry share joint obligation in this connection. It is the obligation to so plan and organize that our people have assurance of security and adequate return for services rendered—the opportunity to work.

As safeguards against extremes which may cause a lag in the full realization of our peacetime development, I urge the preparation of a manpower utilization program which can serve to take up the slack. We must avoid a return to the dole. We must set ourselves to the scientific preparation of a backlog of construction projects which coordinate in purpose and service the physical improvement of our State and the bolstering of morale through beneficial utilization of surplus man power.

Pension Study Planned

In supplement to these studies, it is my hope that a way can be found of improving the lot of our elder citizens through the broadening of our approach to the pension problem. They are the first to suffer in periods of labor surplus and the last to receive the benefits of industrial activity. They are therefore entitled to our consideration.

It is my conviction that our pension system should not be based upon the requirement of pauperism. I want it to be based upon social right. I believe, as most of you believe, that the ultimate solution of the pension problem will come through advances made on a National scale. Yet, we should not permit this thought to delay our own efforts to build and maintain a pension structure within the limits of our ability to pay.

No sound contribution can be made by us in the advancement of our own and National thinking on the pension problem without removing the issue from the field of politics and propaganda. There must be a correlation of all sincere thinking on the subject in order that we may move in unison toward the most practical goal obtainable. In furtherance of this thought, I am preparing to appoint a representative committee whose duty it shall be to examine the entire problem and prepare a basic report for your immediate consideration.

Reorganize Civilian Defense

California is caught, not only in the economic grasp of these uncertain times but faces specific uncertainties arising from actual military conflict. We reside in a theater of war. State leadership has no patriotic alternative but to assume responsibility for assisting all agencies in the protection of life, home and property.

We must guard against the emotional fluctuations produced by daily variances in the news of the war and proceed to place government in a position to perform with promptness and thoroughness all emergency services which may be required. We must offer the people a positive type of leadership—one backed with authority to act and advise—one which invites full public cooperation and confidence.

In making an approach to the reorganization of procedures surrounding our civilian defense efforts, we are all aware that there must, in the interests of speed and complete efficiency, be some further emergency power and authority in the State Government. In this connection, however, I would want you, as legislators, to satisfy yourselves in full measure that the innovations adopted will not destroy that fine balance between the executive and legislative processes which our National and State Constitutions contemplate.

There must be a new analysis made of the general scheme of civilian defense and law enforcement and it must be made with new conceptions of the need for closely knit action on the part of all city, county, State, National and volunteer agencies. We must achieve a new balance of responsibility and cooperation between State and local governments.

It is my intention to treat the entire subject of civilian defense more fully in a special message to the Legislature and ask that you give its proposals your earliest consideration. It will be my request that you reexamine the entire civilian defense structure in a cooperative effort to clarify, revitalize and complete our emergency protections.

It shall be my purpose to afford you the benefit of factual information developed in separate studies encouraged by my office and to urge your consultation with many men and women whom I have found possess broad understanding of specific phases of the problem. I take occasion now to commend to you the efforts of the officers and men of the State guard who have labored under difficulties to build and maintain that important branch of protective service. Nor should words of encouragement be omitted for that body of citizenry which has shown a patriotic willingness to mobilize for auxiliary law enforcement and other war services in home communities.

Must Protect State Surplus

California is now favored with a sizeable surplus. It has come to us very largely from taxes upon war industry. It comes to us in trust, for it is the money of all the people of California.

This surplus, by its very existence, constitutes a constant temptation to everyone to spend it just because it is there. Everyone sees, according to his own lights, a way, a place and a need for spending it and in some instances even for purposes that have never before been considered State purposes.

I hold to the conviction that this money must be lifted above the dissipating reach of grab-bag tactics. If we yield to such temptations, this surplus will soon be transformed into a deficit by processes which will result in an actual denial of the interests of the people as a whole. I want to see this money either committed for essential State projects or conserved. It is my firm belief that we must use this money for the war effort which produced it and for essential services of government or conserve it faithfully for purposes which will relieve the distress which inevitably follows wars.

Budget-Making Policies

Later this month there will be presented, for your analysis, the Administration recommendation in regard to budgetary allotments. I can say to you now that the principle under which this budget is being prepared grants recognition to the times, both in proposed curtailment of expenditures unrelated to war effort and in extra allowance to efforts which can be made the forerunners of better times for our people when the war has ended. We will make provision, not only for war needs but also for the humanitarian services which will keep our structure strong.

We are undertaking moves toward general economy at a time when our tax structure is producing revenue in surplus amounts. It follows, therefore, that we must, in the interests of already burdened taxpayers, proceed immediately to the examination of possibilities for tax reduction.

It is my belief that taxes can be reduced. In evaluating our financial position, however, I see danger signs which we can not afford to ignore to the point of extreme action. We must bear in mind that the conditions which have created our favorable revenue balance are of a highly transient nature and of a type likely to leave a swell of new problems in their wake. It is not wise, under such circumstances, to blindly trade tax stability for temporary advantage.

It is my intention to render all service and assistance possible to the Legislature as it examines the opportunities for altering and reducing our revenue claims upon the people. In an effort to expedite the development of factual information, I am preparing to appoint a committee of representative citizens which will be charged with the responsibility of submitting recommendations for general consideration I am proceeding in this manner in the belief that there is need for full discussion of all phases of the problem. It is a practice I shall follow whenever possible in dealing with difficult problems for it is predicated upon my belief that democracy thrives best when it encourages the suggestions of all.

Civil Service Needs Protection

No State Administration can rise above the standards of public service which it maintains. In California we have endeavored to elevate and fix the standards of personnel through a comprehensive system of civil service. The provisions of our Constitution and the statues on the subject entitle us to a position of leadership throughout the Nation.

There is a general consciousness today that the administration of these laws has, in recent years, been such that the entire structure of civil service is in danger. The situation is not the fault of civil service employees themselves for they have been zealous in trying to guard and respect the protections afforded them. It is the direct result of the brazen application of political pressure upon them. Such tactics must cease immediately. Civil service must be restored to its rightful place where the applicant for public service obtains a position through honest competition and merit and retains that position because of merit.

One can not probe, within the limitations of a single speech, into all the problems which lie before us, and it is not my purpose here to do so. It is my sincere hope that, through warm association and frequent exchanges of ideas, we can advance together in the solution of our common problems.

We meet at a time when the full might of our energy must be loosed to help rid the world of evil aggression which is ravenously feeding upon the rights of free men. Ours is the responsibility of organizing State efficiency in every direction which will help speed the military conclusion of the conflict.

Paralleling this endeavor must be the assumption of responsibility for preventing the backlash of emergency disruptions from undermining confidence in the structure of democracy itself. Our stake in the struggle is both the prevention of the eclipse of our right to improve our way of life and the prevention of the destruction of the way of life itself.

This is an era of crisis. Christianity itself will wander homeless over the world unless we fight for the right to harbor it in open covenant in our hearts and keep its light reflecting through our social, economic and political undertakings. These are times when the requisites for courage and cool deliberate action press upon us in inseparable demand. These are times when the formula of government must be derived from the deepest conceptions within men’s hearts.

It is with this consciousness and with the determination to make our State Administration serve all the people that I assume my duties as Governor of California.

Governor of California.