Governor Newsom’s Inaugural Address: “A California For All”

“A California for All”

Governor Gavin Newsom
Inaugural Address
Remarks as Prepared
January 7, 2019

The story of our state is the story of a dream – one that has drawn strivers and seekers here forever. It’s what brought my family to California three generations ago – the promise not just of a better life, but a bigger one, with opportunities they couldn’t find anywhere else in the world.

So deep does the California Dream run in the history and character of our state that it can feel as enduring as our primeval forests or our majestic mountain ranges. But there is nothing inevitable about it. Every dream depends on the dreamers. It is up to us to renew the California Dream for a new generation. And now more than ever, it is up to us to defend it.

And thankfully we have our champion Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But there is an administration in Washington hostile to California’s values and interests.

California has always helped write America’s future. And we know the decisions we make, would be important at any time. But what we do today is even more consequential, because of what’s happening in our country. People’s lives, freedom, security, the water we drink, the air we breathe – they all hang in the balance. The country is watching us. The world is waiting on us. The future depends on us. And we will seize this moment.

California is a giant engine of commerce – the most creative and entrepreneurial in the world. We have the resources to ensure a decent standard of living for all. It’s not a question of whether we can do this, but whether we will.

At a time when so much of America is divided, we are united. Our people are big-hearted and fair-minded, when those qualities are more vital than ever. I’ve seen that again in just the past few weeks.

I visited Paradise after the fires swept through, and met people who literally lost everything they owned but were still reaching out to help others.

I went to San Diego and met volunteers providing relief to desperate migrants who others treat like criminals – like the 3-year old girl, just a year older than my youngest, at a shelter who captured my heart.

I spent time with farmers in Fresno who rise and grind before the sun comes up to feed the world.

There are everyday heroes all over our state who work hard, then come home and care for aging parents or new-born children, or who open their homes to foster kids, like my mother Tessa did. She was a single mom raising two children and working three jobs, and she still had room in her heart for more.

That’s the California I know. That’s the California I love. And that’s why I am so confident in our future.

Make no mistake, there are powerful forces arrayed against us. Not just politicians in Washington – but drug companies that gouge Californians with sky-high prices. A gun lobby willing to sacrifice the lives of our children to line their pockets. Polluters who threaten our coastline and pay-day lenders who target our most vulnerable. In other places, interests like these still have a tight grip on power. But here in California, we have the power to stand up to them – and we will.

We face serious challenges – some that have been deferred for too long. Even in a booming economy, there is a disquieting sense that things are not as predictable as they once were. That we must now run faster just to stay in place. Stagnant wages. Costs that keep rising – rent, utilities, visiting the doctor – the basics are increasingly out of reach. We face a gulf between the rich and everyone else – and it’s not just inequality of wealth, it’s inequality of opportunity. A homeless epidemic that should keep each and every one of us up at night. An achievement gap in our schools and a readiness gap that holds back millions of our kids. And too many of our children know the ache of chronic hunger. I’ve met families across the state who have to improvise where to tuck their babies in at night – making nests out of blankets on the floor, or turning dresser drawers into makeshift cradles – because they cannot afford a crib.

These aren’t merely policy problems. They are moral imperatives. So long as they persist, we are all diminished. We are all touched by the human condition – whether we ourselves are homeless or jobless, whether we ourselves can pay the bills or have safe drinking water at home. We all have our own frailties and vulnerabilities – we’re all susceptible to suffering and disaster.

So let us resolve to follow the example of rescuers and rebuilders in Paradise and Malibu and Santa Rosa and Ventura – and make sure our fellow Californians share in the compassion and empathy that connect us and make our burdens and anxieties easier to bear.

Our politics doesn’t always reward taking on the hardest problems. The results of our work may not be evident for a long time. But that cannot be our concern.

We will prepare for uncertain times ahead. We will be prudent stewards of taxpayer dollars, pay down debt, and meet our future obligations. And we will build and safeguard the largest fiscal reserve of any state in American history.

But let me be clear: We will be bold. We will aim high and we will work like hell to get there.

Here in California, we will prove that people of good faith, and firm will can still come together to achieve big things. We will offer an alternative to the corruption and incompetence in the White House. Our government will be progressive, principled, and always on the side of the people.

This will take courage. That’s a word that means different things to different people. To me, courage means doing what is right even when it is hard.

That will be the mission of our Administration. We will be a “California for all.”

We will not be divided between rural and urban or north and south or coastal and inland. We will strive for solidarity, and face our most threatening problems – together.

It is with deep faith in our state and our future that I ask you to join me in the work ahead. Let us be pioneering optimists who look to the future not with trepidation but with creativity and boundless energy. This is a time for courage – and we will rise to meet it.

Our state has been on a journey together since the worst of the Great Recession. Back then, we were $27 billion in debt. Unemployment above 12 percent. The worst credit rating of any state in our nation. Today, our economy is larger than all but four nations in the world. We’ve created nearly 3 million jobs and put away billions for a rainy day.

Where Washington failed on the epochal challenge of climate change, California led, extending our cap-and-trade system and setting bold targets for lowering greenhouse gas emissions, then beating them.

So much of this progress has happened under the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown. It has been an honor to serve with him these past eight years – and to learn from him, not just as his Lieutenant Governor, but throughout my lifetime.

When Jerry last took the oath of office, he reflected on a parable from the Sermon on the Mount. It tells of a foolish man who built his house on sand. A storm washed it away. But a wise man sought a sounder foundation. And when the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on the house he built, it did not fall. “For it was founded upon a rock.” For eight years, California has built a foundation of rock. Our job now is not to rest on that foundation. It is to build our house upon it.

Now more than ever, we Californians know how much a house matters – as so many of our neighbors have lost theirs. Together, let us build a house stronger than the coming storms, yet open to the world. A house that provides shelter to all who need it and sanctuary to all who seek it — where opportunity abounds for all who will work for it. A true California house, sun-kissed, dream-soaked, and built with the sweat of honest work. We will not have one house for the rich and one for the poor, or one for the native-born and one for the rest. We will build one house for one California.

Because what is a house but a home. And California is our home.

In our home, every child should be loved, fed, and safe. My wife Jennifer and I have four children, and there is nothing more important to us than giving them a good and happy life. But all kids – not just the children of a governor and a filmmaker – should have a good life in California…. Not ripped away from their parents at the border… Not left hungry while politicians seek to pour billions into a wall that should never be built. We will support parents so they can give their kids the love and care they need, especially in those critical early years when so much development occurs.

In our home, no one should live in constant fear of eviction or spend their whole paycheck to keep a roof overhead. We will launch a Marshall Plan for affordable housing and lift up the fight against homelessness from a local matter to a state-wide mission.

In our home, every person should have access to quality, affordable health care. Far-away judges and politicians may try to turn back our progress. But we will never waver in our pursuit of guaranteed health care for all Californians. We will use both our market power and our moral power to demand fairer prices for prescription drugs. We will stop stigmatizing mental health and start supporting it. And in California we will always protect a woman’s right to choose.

In our home, we believe in justice for all. We will defend the progress we’ve made to reform our criminal justice system. We will continue the fight against over-incarceration and over-crowding in our prisons. And we will end the outrage of private prisons once and for all.

In our home, working people deserve fair pay, the right to join a union, and the chance at a middle-class life for themselves and their families. We will fight not just for growth at any cost but for inclusive, sustainable growth. We will shape the future of work… and connect higher education and skills training to the next generation of middle-class jobs… because in this time of swift and unsettling change, all Californians should be able to count on a measure of security and a real shot at opportunity.

And those who dream of building something of their own – a restaurant, a bookstore, a family farm – they will get our support. Our small businesses help explain why we have one of the biggest economies on Earth.

For me this is personal. I will never forget the day I got a $20 tip bussing tables at Ramona’s restaurant in San Rafael. I was 16 years old. Trust me, busboys don’t get tips like that. I know it sounds strange, but it changed my life. It meant that my hard work mattered and it motivated me to keep going. Eight years later, I started my own business. So I know how much hard work and sacrifice is behind every small business in this state – and how good it feels when that hard work pays off. California must never turn its back on the entrepreneurial spirit that has always defined us.

And in our home, when trouble comes, we will stand together. When fires strike or the earth shakes, we will be there for each other.

As a former mayor, I learned the wisdom of the African proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. To my friends in the legislature, Democrats and Republicans alike, I promise you an open door and an open mind. Californians didn’t send us here to bicker or sulk – they get enough of that from Washington.

And let’s not forget that it is not only in the corridors of the Capitol that change is being forged. I will partner with mayors, sheriffs, and supervisors all over this state, I know the pressures you face. I’ve been there. The only way to fix our problems is if you are empowered to lead the way.

I intend to represent all Californians, not only those who voted for me. I will be a governor for the dock worker in Long Beach, and the farm worker in Lost Hills, the small business owner in Corona, and the teacher in Compton. I recognize that many in our rural communities believe that Sacramento doesn’t care about them – doesn’t even really see them. Well, I see you. I care about you. And I will represent you with pride.

That notion – that we’re all in this together – is a powerful one. It’s also how I was raised. Some of you may know that I lost my father just before Christmas. He was a judge. Justice Bill Newsom. For him, “Justice” was more than a title. It was in his bones. He believed to his core that all people should be treated fairly and with respect. That’s always been a bedrock “California value” to me.

So 15 years ago, when I was a new mayor and I heard politicians in Washington sneering at “California values” and attacking our LGBT community, I remembered what my father taught me: “It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.” And that’s what we did. In San Francisco, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, two women who had been in love for nearly 50 years, had the courage to stand up and say those two powerful words: I do. Thousands more followed in their footsteps. It took a long time, but love won.

Just like fifteen years ago, this is a time for courage. We will stand up for what’s right, and we will defend our people. My pledge to every Californian is this: no matter what comes at us, I will have your back!

If we do this right, the progress we make will never be unmade. As Cesar Chavez said, “You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.”

There is a story we tell about our history, from Sutter’s Mill to Steve Jobs’s garage, about how this is the place where anything is possible. This is the “coast of dreams.” And that’s true. But you shouldn’t have to find gold or make it in the movies or create a billion-dollar start-up to live the California Dream. It is for everyone.

Everyone in California should have a good job with fair pay. Every child should have a great school and a teacher who is supported and respected. Every young person should be able to go to college without crushing debt or to get the training they need to compete and succeed. And every senior should be able to retire with security and live at home with dignity. That is the California Dream. Not to get rich quick or star on the big screen, but to work hard and share in the rewards. To leave a better future for our kids.

The work we have spoken of today cannot be the job of a governor alone, or a legislature, or even the entire government. It will only be achieved if all of us share the spirit of the young DREAMer from Los Angeles I heard recently. She said: “I wasn’t born in California, but California was born in me.”

There’s a spark of California hope and California courage born in all of us. It’s up to us, what we do with it. The eyes of the world are upon us. Now more than ever, America needs California. It needs the guiding light of our values and the progress they make possible. This is where America’s future is made. This is our charge. That is our calling.

Let’s get to work. Thank you and may God bless California.