Gray Davis

37th Governor, Democrat

First Inaugural Address

Delivered: January 4, 1999

Second Inaugural Address - January 6, 2003

Well, it took us 23 years, but we made it.

Thank you, Chief Justice George, and thank you, Justice Mosk, for your years of service. I am honored you can be here today as well as the chief.

Vice President Gore, thank you for being my friend for more than a decade, and thank you for honoring us with your presence and please convey to President Clinton our thanks for the wonderful job the two of you are doing for America.

And I want to thank our good friend, Tipper, for being here as well. Sharon and I had a chance to have dinner with the vice president and Tipper. Unfortunately the phone rang every four minutes, as he was on his way to Malaysia that night on four hours notice. But it was a very nice dinner, and he told us he was going to honor us today, and I'm delighted that both of them could be here.

Sen. Feinstein, thank you so much for honoring us with your presence today, and thank you for your generous support last summer, and for your great leadership in the United States Senate. God bless you.

This is not in my script, but I notice you are sitting next to my anchor tenant in San Francisco, the great mayor of San Francisco, Willie L. Brown Jr.

Gov. Wilson, it is a special privilege to have you and Gayle here as we pass the torch. I could not have asked for more cooperation or a better attitude of cooperation during our transition, and I thank you. I could not have asked for more cooperation during this transition, and I thank you for 30 years – more than 30 years – of public service to America.

Members of Congress, Ambassador Reyes-Heroles, governor, lieutenant governor, fellow constitutional officers, my good friend Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, my good friend President protempore of the Senate John Burton, the many mayors here, both from the United States and from Mexico, my wonderful wife Sharon, and the other woman in my life, who really started all this, my mother, Doris Morrel.

I want to thank all of my family here. They take up most of most there rows back here, and I'm delighted they are here. All of my friends, and all of you are my friends, and fellow citizens.

Today we begin a new chapter in the history of California: The Era of Higher Expectations. We will embark in a new direction guided by our lasting values.

My friends, the November election demonstrated that Californians are essentially moderate, pragmatic people, more interested in practical solutions to their problems than in rigid ideologies.

I am a moderate and a pragmatist by nature. That is how I campaigned. And that is how I will lead this state into the future.

I will govern neither from the right nor from the left, but from the center, propelled not by ideology, but by common sense that seeks better results for all of us.

It matters not whether an idea comes from a Republican or a Democrat. What matters is whether that idea is right or wrong – and whether it will work!

I pledge to you an administration that is at once tough-minded and big-hearted. We will restore a sense of decency and compassion to government. And we will reward merit and insist upon accountability.

Building on the profound sacrifices and accomplishments of our parents, grandparents and all those who came before us, we will revive the sense of unlimited possibility and common purpose that once made California the envy of the world.

My friends, we are among the most fortunate people ever to inhabit the planet Earth. In California, we are particularly blessed with a great legacy. And this I promise: Once again, California will lead the way!

As I take office on your behalf, I offer this covenant now: I will do my part. I will be tight with your tax dollars, passionate about education, dedicated to economic growth, committed to the environment and death on violent crime.

But you must do your part. For there is no substitute for the collective action of inspired citizens. If we are to claim our destiny, personal engagement is not an option – it is an imperative.

So today I issue this call: Choose not indifference and mistrust; choose hope, commitment and renewal.

One hundred and fifty-one years ago, not too far from here on the South Fork of the American River, James Marshall discovered gold. In many ways, the modern history of California began at that moment. No single event did more to shape this state's character than the resulting Gold Rush of the mid-1800s.

From that time forward to this day, millions of people have ventured from every corner of the globe to find their destiny here. These new Californians, in all their magnificent diversity, infused the state with an unshakable belief that here, in the Golden State, all things were possible.

They were certain – sometimes in the face of cruelty, discrimination and misfortune – that if they worked hard, played by the rules, nurtured their families, they would, in their own way, discover gold and strike it rich.

And they did.

Our workers and industrialists have built the world's seventh largest economy.

Our farmers and laborers produce the world's greatest agricultural bounty.

Our artists and performers make us the entertainment capital of the world.

Our engineers and entrepreneurs have created the technology that is reshaping the world. California, you might say, is at the center of the New World.

Yet on the eve of the new millennium, we still face daunting challenges. We will not long hold onto our claim as the Golden State unless we forge new ways to grow our economy, ensure public safety, maintain a clean environment, improve health care for all Californians, contain urban sprawl and repair our aging infrastructure.

But our success in confronting two challenges in particular will largely determine whether we prosper or decline.

First, we must educate our children for the new economy of the 21st century. And second, we must seek to unite our increasingly diverse people in common purpose.

To meet these challenges, we must first believe in ourselves, and in our special destiny as Californians.

I believe if we summon the best in us, if we build on the great investments our predecessors made for us, if we rely on lasting values like duty, honor and service, if we hold higher expectations for ourselves and for our children, we will set new standards of excellence for our schools and new standards of civility for our common life.

Like many of you, I'm an immigrant. I was born in the Bronx. And when I arrived in California in 1954, this state's public schools were considered among the best in the nation. Sadly, that is no longer the case.

But blaming teachers, as some have done, is no solution. Yes, there are some deficient teachers and principals out there. Under my administration either they will get better – or they will be encouraged to find another line of work.

But let us not forget the tens of thousands of selfless teachers and administrators who struggle – often against terrible odds, for too little pay, and frequently at their own expense – to educate our children every day. We are deeply indebted to them for their hard work, sacrifice and dedication.

Notwithstanding all that dedication, there are too many public schools that are failing to prepare our children to be sufficiently literate, articulate and technologically proficient to meet the demands of the 21st century.

Too many children enter high school without fundamental knowledge in English, math, science and history.

Too many young people graduate high school without basic skills necessary to begin a college education or master the high-paying jobs of tomorrow.

Too many high-tech companies are forced to look abroad for engineers, software designers and scientists.

Too many street corners are crowded with disillusioned and delinquent kids who have dropped out and given up on themselves.

And too many families of every ethnicity have thrown up their hands in frustration, concluding they have no choice but to send their kids to private or parochial school.

I say enough is enough. The time has come to restore California's public schools to greatness!

The voters demand it. Our future depends on it. And I am determined to make it happen.

I want nothing short of this: to raise the performance, the promise and the possibilities and the promise of every child in California.

I intend to challenge all students to raise their sights and lift their performance. I believe in higher expectations. We must demand that all students do better – and we must insist upon more responsibility and accountability from everyone – students, teachers, parents, administrators and from society itself.

That will be my primary mission as your governor. And I will undertake it with the same sense of purpose, discipline and focus that I learned 30 years ago, courtesy of the United States Army. We are going to get it done.

To those who complain our children will fall behind if we set higher standards of achievement, I offer this advice: don't sell our kids short. If we challenge youngsters, they will rise to meet the challenge. But if we continue to accept excuses for failure, then failure is what we are going to get.

And to those who are not prepared to do the hard work to fix our schools and want to give up on public education entirely, I offer the words of the Prophet Isaiah: "My people are gone into captivity for want of knowledge." My friends, unless we invest in the future of our youth, our youth will have no future!

Lasting values, new direction. That is my guiding philosophy.

That is how we will rebuild our schools. And that is how we will repair our strained social fabric.

Throughout my campaign, I pledged that the day I took the oath of office, the era of wedge-issue politics in California would be over. Well, my fellow Californians, that day is here. That time is now. And you can finally ring down the curtain on the politics of division.

California is the most culturally complex state in that nation. In fact, it is the most culturally complex state on the planet Earth, where nearly 150 languages are spoken – and where, in just three years, there will be no single ethnic majority. That's a milestone the country will not reach for another 50 years.

We are America's future. This great, bold experiment on the Pacific is America's future.

And we can either allow society to be torn by factions and disunity, or we can demonstrate to the world how a heterogeneous people can live and prosper together.

Our vast diversity is our strength. Our growing Latino population, for example, is a source of pride and cultural vitality, and plays an important role in making California a natural trading partner with Mexico.

I will, of course, continue to speak out against illegal immigration. But I will treat the only foreign country with which we share a border with the respect and courtesy a peace-loving, sovereign nation deserves.

And I will shortly be going to Mexico City, leading a delegation that includes the leaders of business, labor, academia and our great new lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante.

Together – juntos – I'm going to put this in here anyway – Cruz Bustamante y yo trabajaremos por ustedes. They only gave me one word, "juntos." They didn't think I could do any more. Together we will seek to enhance cultural, academic and economic ties with our most important neighbor.

Now, Californians are a fair and compassionate people. They believe in equality and justice. They are also a people of great decency and integrity. Our mission is to apply these principles to enhance opportunity for every Californian from every background and nationality.

Under my administration, for example, we will seek to ensure diversity and fair play by guaranteeing to those students who truly excel by graduating in the top four percent of their high school – whether it's in West Los Angeles or East Palo Alto – those kids who excel will automatically be admitted to the University of California.

My administration will not flinch in the face of the gun lobby. Working with the brave police officers on our streets and concerned citizens in our neighborhoods, I will sign legislation toughening the statewide ban on assault weapons. I was trained in the use of automatic weapons in Vietnam. I understand they have a legitimate place on the battlefield. But they have no place on the streets of California.

My administration will work to preserve our God-given natural heritage and resources. We will seek to protect open spaces and farmlands, safeguard fragile ecosystems and extend the moratorium on oil drilling to undeveloped tracts off California's magnificent coastline.

And to those who would seek to deny a woman her right to choose, let me offer this suggestion: Don't waste the Legislature's time...

Now I will complete the sentence: Don't waste the Legislature's time trying to pass bills restricting women's constitutional rights. It simply will not happen on my watch.

Lasting values, new direction.

As we approach the dawn of the 21st century, it's important to remember how our vast good fortune came to be. It was, after all, our parents and grandparents who sacrificed for us, fought and died for us, endured the Depression, perished in the Holocaust, invested in roads and schools, farms and businesses, defended our liberties, delivered to us unprecedented advantage.

We have a profound obligation and duty to honor their great gift by building on that noble tradition, by matching the resourcefulness, creativity and optimistic energy they invested on our behalf.

For me, public service is but an extension of the service one gives freely to one's family, friends, country and God. Duty and service. Duty and service – they have always been, and always will be, my life's purpose.

And I honor especially the memory of America's veterans by taking this solemn oath of office in this Memorial Auditorium....

I'm going to have to learn to speak faster, because the next line says – maybe we can do it anyway – I ask you now to stand and join me in applauding the brave men and women here today who answered the call and heroically put their lives in harm's way to defend our values, our liberties and our freedom.

My fellow Californians, I will ask no more of you than our predecessors asked of themselves: to strive for the best, to participate fully and to seek common purpose.

As we enter the 21st century, let history say of us that the dawn of the millennium was the dawn of a new beginning for California. That we stepped boldly into a new era and embraced the future as our friend, with confidence not with fear.

And let it be said of us that in a shrinking world, men and women of different races and ethnicities were brought together as never before. That here in California, we made Martin Luther King's dream a reality, that by judging people by the content of their character, we united as one people and found common purpose in our unparalleled diversity.

And finally, let it be said that in the most fundamental of mankind's purposes – to nurture the next generation – we did our duty, we gave our children the tools to learn, to grow and to succeed.

My fellow Californians, this is our time. A time to move again. A time to grow again. A time to do great things again.

I still believe California is a very special place, graced by God, where all things are possible if only we have the courage to believe in ourselves, embrace the future and move in a new direction guided by our lasting values.

Thank you, God bless you and God bless America.