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In becoming 46th Governor of Wisconsin, Tony Evers calls for unity and “putting people first”

After being disparaged and made the scapegoat of state problems for nearly a decade, Milwaukee once again has a friend in the Governor’s chair. Tony Evers was sworn in as Wisconsin’s 46th governor on January 7.

Along with Evers, four additional State constitutional officers for Wisconsin were sworn in during the inauguration, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, Attorney General Josh Kaul, Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, and Secretary of State Douglas La Follette.

The outgoing state schools superintendent reminded the crowd of hundreds inside the Capitol’s rotunda about the themes he campaigned on last fall, including fully funding public education, making healthcare affordable and protecting those with pre-existing health conditions. He noted that the state cannot fix these problems unless people come before politics.

Evers offered no specifics on how elected officials could bridge their political divide. But he said the hard work of narrowing the gap begins in classrooms and playgrounds, where kids learn to treat others with kindness and respect, regardless of where their parents were born; on campuses and in houses of worship, where people will find value in their differences; and with valuing all workers.

Evers said that good government for the people of Wisconsin starts in the marble halls of Madison’s capital building, explaining that elected officials have an obligation and allegiance to the people of this state, not any political leader or party.

“We must turn the page on the tired politics of the past, and we must lead by example,” Evers said. “It’s time to remake and repair our state and to reclaim our better history.”

Evers thanked his predecessor, Governor Scott Walker, who was sitting on the stage. He also recounted being a kid who “grew up in Plymouth, met my wife in kindergarten, took her to junior prom, and went from scraping the mold off of cheese to teaching science to becoming state superintendent to now standing here before you.”

He urged those in attendance at his inauguration to focus on bigger issues like the 870,000 Wisconsin families that are struggling to make ends meet, those losing their family farms, going to school in classrooms with 30 other kids because public education has not been fully funded, and seniors who cannot afford the cost of health care. Evers bemoaned a society being paralyzed by polarity and content with division.

“We’ve gotten away from who we are and the values that make Wisconsin great — not Republican or Democratic values, but our Wisconsin values of kindness and respect, empathy and compassion, and integrity and civility,” Evers added.

Governor Tony Evers Inaugural Address

Delivered on January 7, 2019

Chief Justice Roggensack, honorable Supreme Court justices, former governors, constitutional officers including newly-appointed State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor, cabinet secretaries, members of congress, tribal leaders, state legislators, General Dunbar and the National Guard as well as active and retired members of our armed forces, distinguished guests, friends and family, and, most importantly, people of Wisconsin: welcome, and thank you for being here today.

I want to thank Governor Walker and Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch and their families for their service to our state. I also want to thank my wife, Kathy, and my family, for their relentless support from Tomah to Verona to standing here today and everywhere in between—I love you all. Thank you.

And finally, to the people of Wisconsin. I’m humbled to be here today as a kid who grew up in Plymouth, met my wife in kindergarten, took her to junior prom, and went from scraping the mold off of cheese to teaching science to becoming state superintendent to now standing here before you. I’m grateful for your trust in me and the opportunity and privilege to serve you and our state. Thank you.

I’m Tony Evers, and I’m incredibly proud to be the 46th Governor of the great state of Wisconsin.

I’ve spent the past year traveling across our state talking about the issues that matter most to the people of Wisconsin.

We talked about how what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state. And that means we need to fully fund our public schools at every level, so that every kid in our state has access to a quality education—no matter what the zipcode—from all-day pre-k to our university and technical college systems. We talked about making sure that healthcare is affordable and accessible and protects people who have pre-existing conditions. We talked about gravel roads, potholes, and bridges, and why we cannot wait any longer for a sustainable solution to our transportation crisis.

But today is bigger than these issues that we all care about. We cannot fix these problems unless people come before politics. We’ve become paralyzed by polarity and we’ve become content with division. We’ve been indifferent to resentment and governing by retribution.

We’ve gotten away from who we are and the values that make Wisconsin great—not Republican or Democratic values, but our Wisconsin values of kindness and respect, empathy and compassion, and integrity and civility.

This is bigger than me; this is about the people of Wisconsin. It’s about setting aside political interests and personal ambitions to work together on solving problems. It’s about putting people first.

People like the 870,000 families in Wisconsin who are struggling to make ends meet and can’t afford basic necessities like child care, food, and transportation.

People like the mom from Oconomowoc who spends two hundred dollars a day on medication because she’s among the 2.4 million Wisconsinites who have a pre-existing condition.

Like dairy farmers from Washburn to Door County losing their farms passed down for generations who have been the backbone of our state for the better part of a century.

Like kids across our state going to school in classrooms with thirty other kids because we’ve failed to fully fund our public schools.

Like our seniors from Rhinelander to Racine who can’t afford soaring drug prices or rising health care costs and who deserve to age and retire with dignity.

Like our young people who work multiple jobs just to stay here and afford their student loan payments and are looking to us to take gun violence and global warming seriously.

I took the oath today with the grace and humility of knowing that no single person can solve these problems alone—the challenges we face can only be fixed by finding solutions together.

170 years ago, our forefathers charged us with being industrious and innovative—they gave us a mandate to go forward. We face that calling here today. We must turn the page on the tired politics of the past, and we must lead by example. It’s time to remake and repair our state and to reclaim our better history.

The people of Wisconsin demanded a change this November, and that change is coming. But that change won’t happen without all of us. So, that hard work begins here today.

It begins in our classrooms and on our playgrounds, where our kids learn to be accepting and treat others with kindness and respect–regardless of whether their parents were born here, what their circumstances are, and no matter their identity.

It begins on campuses and in coffee shops, on sidewalks and houses of worship, where we will not fear diversity or our differences but find value in discourse and dialogue that make us better people and better citizens.

It begins with valuing the dignity of all our workers–from paper mills to nursing homes, restaurants to cranberry farms, and village halls to highways–by recognizing that every person has meaning and each job a purpose, none more important than any other.

Finally, it begins in these marble halls where, as elected officials, we are reminded that our obligation and our allegiance are to the people of this state, not any political leader or party. That is the promise and the spirit of our service. May we dare to transcend divisiveness and party line. May we have courage in our conscience. And may we be willing to do what’s best for the next generation rather than the next election.

We have significant challenges facing our state, and we will no doubt face setbacks in the days ahead. But we are more than the sum of our differences. And what unites us is far, far greater than what divides us.

I have never been more hopeful about our state and our kids’ future as I stand here today. We must dare greatly to go forward in the face of adversity and uncertainty. We must dare to make space for hope here once again. And today, we turn toward the future and we move forward, together.

Let’s polka tonight and get to work tomorrow.

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