George Deukmejian

35th Governor, Republican

First Inaugural Address

Delivered: January 3, 1983

Second Inaugural Address - January 5, 1987


Twenty years ago, I stood only a few yards from here to take the oath of office as a new member of the state Assembly. Through these two decades of California’s growth and evolution, one thing still has never changed, and that is our solemn and timeless responsibility to the people as public servants.

Today, I stand before you to reaffirm this commitment as your governor.

If we have learned nothing else in these past few years of discussion and debate of significant ballot initiatives, it is that the people of California want their government to listen to them. They want a government that does not stand over them in arrogance, but one which uses common sense and stands side-by-side with them in a common partnership.

Beginning today, in a bipartisan manner, let’s dedicate ourselves to achieving a Common Sense Society that uses its resources wisely to provide improved services to meet the basic needs of the people.

This Common Sense Society must begin with our concentration on the four most urgent tasks which face us—the need to create again a strong and growing economy which provides needed jobs; the improvement of education; the restoration of safety to our streets, homes and neighborhoods; and the rescue of our state from its grave financial crisis.

Beginning immediately, we will work to rebuild the robust and confident business and working environment which was the core of our economic vitality. That will begin when we once again send a clear, strong message that we will be of assistance to those who create jobs. And that message begins right here, right now.

I have started by appointing individuals to my cabinet who understand the need for government to help rather than hinder those who produce job opportunities. They join me in my pledge to embark on a decade of economic prosperity.

Still, the job will not be easy. Nor will results come quickly.

Regulations which have choked off growth and progress must be examined and changed where necessary. Our clogged transportation corridors need immediate attention so that goods and people can again be moved with speed and efficiency. The waterways which provide lifeblood to our cities, farms and factories must not continue to be caught up in seemingly eternal conflict and controversy.

And if we are to have any economic progress at all, we must do a better job of guaranteeing a future of plentiful and reasonably priced energy.

Wherever state government has been an impediment to increased housing construction, I propose that we now become a partner.

As far as I am concerned, there are no limits to what we can achieve. With the committed effort of each of us, we can open a new era of opportunity with responsible progress and growth which expands outward for all who seek work.

However, all the prosperity in the world will not make our society better if our people are threatened by crime. Therefore, it will be the highest priority during my administration to provide all the leadership I can to make California safe again.

I will support legislation which protects the rights of victims of crime as well as its perpetrators. I will continue to give vigorous support to our law enforcement agencies. And I will use my office to ensure that we take every reasonable action to strive for a society where locks, bars and alarms are no longer considered necessities of life.

But in order to make real progress towards such a society we must also have a judiciary with more balanced views. Therefore, I will appoint to the courts of our state well-qualified men and women who will protect the rights of victims as well as protecting the rights of the accused.

I will advocate and strongly support the notion of judicial independence. But it should be equally clear that judicial independence must always draw from the well of common sense.

There is no real justice when the zealous quest for perfect procedural justice is exalted to such a level that hoodlums and criminals believe that they can escape punishment for their wrongful acts.

One way to create a society with a strong economy and fewer criminals is to ensure that we provide the fullest of educational opportunities. Public education is a great gift of democracy that has contributed much to our progress and prosperity. Young people are our most vital resource, and I view the building of their minds and personal skills as one of the highest priorities of government.

The quality of public education depends on the quality of our commitment. Adequate funding is necessary, but it is not the sole answer.

Common Sense tells us that we need to put more resources into the classroom and fewer into red tape and administration.

Finally, no child or teacher should be subjected to the violence and drugs which have been part of the unofficial curriculum in too many schools. Isn’t it time that we embark on one simple and direct educational goal? Let’s get the drugs and violence out of our schools and put the basics back in.

Next, it is certainly no secret that we are face-to-face with a grave financial situation. Projecting to June 30, if nothing is done, we will end this fiscal year with a deficit of approximately $1.5 billion.

On that basis, we will be spending $4 million a day more than we have been receiving. We are short of cash and had to borrow over $2 billion including $400 million from private lenders to pay our bills. Our credit rating has been hurt.

For months, some have suggested that the only way out of this difficult situation is to raise taxes. Yet, repeatedly over the past few years, the voters have expressed the strongest of sentiments that the government already collects too many taxes. Therefore, because I believe our first obligation is to listen to the people, we must make every effort to restore fiscal responsibility without a net tax increase.

This requires us to establish strong basic priorities. It requires that we understand that in a period of austerity, government should reduce its expenditures in the same manner as most families do.

I am dedicated to a resolution of our fiscal problems, and I am determined in this process to work with the Legislature in a spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship. I am mindful that bipartisanship is a two-way street. But if common sense prevails, our common cause will be served.

Working together for the best interest of the people of California, we can have:

  • A government which improves services while keeping within its means.
  • A government which recognizes that free people should not have to live in fear with locks on their doors and bars on their windows.
  • A society where young people have the opportunity to obtain a fine education and earn a good living.
  • A society that doesn’t forget its heritage and which pays its parents and grandparents the respect that they are due and allows them to participate in life with peace of mind and personal dignity.
  • And a society where principle is not passé, and the qualities of truth, honor, honesty, sacrifice, morality and hard work have meaning and respect.

Now is the time to reach for a society which enriches the lives of all of its citizens. It is a time to restore the finest qualities of our state, its openness and opportunity; its willingness to dare to be the very best.

It is time to rediscover California and the rich quality of character that lies within her. It is a chance to step into the future filled with confidence and renewed determination.

A few moments ago, I shared with you a personal journey I made from the legislative halls in our beautiful capitol to the governor’s office. I am respectful of these great new responsibilities but eager to begin the job.

But this journey is only a small part of another one that has significant personal meaning for me.

That journey began 75 years ago in the homeland of Armenia. Four people, at different times, left behind a land of hardship and turmoil for a foreign land thousands of miles away.

Arriving without funds and without knowing the culture or language, they came in search of something more precious than all these, they came for freedom. They came, not seeking the best that the new nation had to offer but willing to accept even the worst.

Like millions before and after, they sought hope and opportunity. It was the promise of a better and more secure life. No word can describe it other than a dream fulfilled.

Those four people were my parents and Gloria’s parents, and that new land was America.

You can see why today is special for me and my family. But even more important than that—you can see why I have so much faith in the future.

We are setting upon a course today of restoring that kind of hope and opportunity to the lives of all of our people. We cannot have excellence in our society without unity.

We seek to create a society where there is every room for people, regardless of their race, or national origin, to have a meaningful role in society and their government.

So on this day I pledge courage and commitment to the rigors ahead. I am as confident of these new times as those who came before us were of finding a new and better life.

I arrived at this day with your help and your prayers. I will need your continued help and prayers each day that lies ahead. I ask you to be a part of still one more journey.

Thank you and happy new year.