Discovering Montana

Remarks for the Inauguration Ceremony

Helena, January 6, 1997( to download text )

On behalf of all of the newly-sworn elected officials, I thank each one of you for coming here today to join us and to bear witness to the ongoing strength and vibrancy of our democracy. I want to express our gratitude to each of the participants in this ceremony and especially to the people of my hometown of Libby and the Libby Loggers who made it here today for this special occasion.

Finally, a note of welcome to the Central School class of Tina Veroulis and a note of thanks to the Inauguration Committee and to the Governor’s Office staff, especially Kris MacIntyre, for making this a memorable occasion for each of us.

We stand here this morning in the shadow of a statue of Jeannette Rankin, a past elected official in Montana. She would be pleased, I believe, to note the presence here of our new Lieutenant Governor, Judy Martz. I, too, am happy to have Judy with me as our working partner.

These are indeed special moments all across our special state and for all of its people. And we dare not ever take any of these moments for granted. We are gathered here seemingly to swear in the state’s elected officers. But what we are also doing here today is reaffirming our dedication to the wondrous operation of our democracy.

Once again, in larger proportions than the rest of the nation, Montanans have exercised their right--indeed, their obligation--to participate openly, freely and willingly in the world’s longest running democracy.

And I know that I personally am humbled, again, by the opportunity to work in the service of Montanans for one more term.

Although it was 108 years ago that Montana became a state, this is a new beginning. It is a new year. It is a new term. It is a new session in a Capitol building being re-NEWed.

But what we are also celebrating here today, together, is our mutual presence, together, on this shared space that truly is a special corner of God’s good earth. Democracy, as we all know, can be an inherently contentious undertaking. Institutional frictions are built into this system of governing as safeguards against the abuses our founding fathers feared. And, I think, we all accept the inevitability of different views in our democracy. There is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it is healthy.

But let none of us forget that this democracy is also based on a stubborn sense of civility and presumed innocence. When there are disagreements, let them be disagreements of policy and not of personality. We owe it to the people who sent us to these offices to suspect the best of each other, even in times of great pressure and tension.

As we enter into and participate in the arena of our state’s important affairs in the coming weeks, let each one of us give to all of those around us the same presumption of good will and good intentions that we would like afforded to ourselves.

Let us vow, publicly in our words and privately in our hearts, to work together and always to stress the many, many things that unite us here in Montana, instead of the very, very few that might divide us.

These are times of change, change that can seem threatening because it is new and unfamiliar, even when such change might relieve ongoing pain or problems. That’s because the pain or problems, at least, are familiar.

But change can also offer grand opportunities. And we must change in order to adequately protect the special essence that we all feel is a unique characteristic of life in Montana.

We have been richly blessed to be afforded the opportunity to serve and to participate in the hopeful beginning of a new season of public service. We are all a part, no one greater or lesser than another, of the glorious and sometimes unpredictable process of democracy renewing itself, fulfilling its inspired destiny.

We thank God and the generous people of Montana. And we look forward, with great anticipation and enthusiasm, to working with each other as we set about, together, to spend ourselves completely and in good faith steering Montana’s course into the next millenium.

May we have the grace and the courage to do it well and honorably. God bless each of you.....And each of us.....And God bless our Montana.


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