After his swearing in on Wednesday, we heard Gov. Dannel P. Malloy deliver a message that sought to strike a balance between a sober warning of the crisis the state is facing and a hopeful, optimistic message that we will pull through.
I enjoyed the speech, but somehow I felt like I’d heard it all before. And, in fact, a quick look at some previous power-transfer speeches like this one suggests that the new governor’s speechwriters are borrowing heavily from historical themes. One can hardly blame them. Inaugural addresses of all kinds try to find that balance between realism and optimism, between sober prose and high-flying poetry, to bridge the gap from the memory of a great past to the hope for a better future.
There is very little else to say about the inaugural day and the scant few days after. The Malloy Administration is still very young, and it’s impossible to make any real judgments about it just yet. So here is a collection of quotes from inauguration speeches past and present (some of them are speeches to the public, some speeches to the legislature immediately following the swearing-in) which illustrate that yes, we’ve been here before, many times. Likely, we will see these themes repeated whenever the next governor takes office.
There’s a sort of continuity here that I find oddly comforting. Inaugurals are not often the time for bold departures from past traditions, after all.
Today I see an economic crisis and an employment crisis, both fueled by an unfriendly employer environment, a lack of educational resources, a deteriorating transportation system, and an enormous budget crisis of historic proportions. All coddled by a habit of political sugarcoating that has passed our problems onto the next generation. —Malloy, 2011
Few could have accurately predicted the incredible, seemingly unrelenting, series of events that have led to today’s actions. It has been a time of profound disappointment and disillusionment. It has been a moment in history that we never thought we would see, and fervently hope that we never see again. —M. Jodi Rell, 2004
Those who break the social compact disrupt our world. They bring the shadow of fear and anguish where there should be carefree joy. They chill our lives, as they cause our parents and the less mobile to live a life in fear behind locked doors. —John Rowland, 1995
A deficit has taken control of our lives, coloring all else as it climbs beyond comprehension, sapping our confidence, humbling our visions. —Lowell Weicker, 1991
Our state is in disarray. The financial condition of state government today is unsound. A balanced budget and an operating surplus simply do not exist. —Ella Grasso, 1975
…[I]f we are all willing to engage in a shared sense of sacrifice, we can realize shared prosperity for everyone in Connecticut. —Malloy
No more sacrifices postponed. […] No broken-field running, ladies and gentlemen. Straight into the line. We take our licks, so that we can restore the caring and quality of life that is Connecticut…” —Weicker
Connecticut History Lesson:
In our innovative heyday we had more patents issued per capita than any other state in the union. We defined the American industrial revolution on a global basis and consequently enjoyed the highest per capita income of anywhere in the nation. —Malloy
Connecticut has spawned more than its fair share of dynamic dreamers. We live in a state which produced social revolutionaries like Roger Sherman and Jonathan Trumbull—industrial revolutionaries like Eli Whitney and Samuel Colt—and cultural revolutionaries like Marian Anderson and Harriet Beecher Stowe. —Rowland
Connecticut is awesome, so we’ll be fine
At this crossroads of crisis and opportunity, I believe we will hold fast to our heritage – while we reach deep, rally hard and choose well to leave Connecticut a better place. —Malloy
Yet while the people’s trust in government has been weakened, I know that Connecticut is resilient. Ours is a strength that is centuries old, but ever new. —Rell
Obligatory Mark Twain
We will forever be home to the world-class legacies of Harriett Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Eli Whitney, Prudence Crandall, and so many others. —Malloy
To paraphrase Twain, the state’s political clothes are worn out, and it is up to all of us to cut a new suit for these times. —Weicker
In a speech almost a century ago, Mark Twain admonished young people, “Always do right.” He said, “You will gratify some people, and astonish the rest.” May we astonish the people of Connecticut with the quality of government in the years to come. —Rowland
The bright, hopeful way forward
I believe that Connecticut’s best days are ahead – if we join together in what must be a shared, emerging movement for rational, honest, achievable change. A movement that restores economic vitality, creates jobs and returns Connecticut to fiscal solvency by establishing our means and living within them. —Malloy
Today, we begin to restore faith, integrity, and honor to our government. It is our solemn obligation. It will be our lasting legacy. —Rell
Our positive vision for the future will be the golden chain that links us to success. But nothing great, or even good, has ever been achieved without optimism, without excitement, enthusiasm and without some sacrifice. The greater the challenges we face, the more glory in our achievements. —Rowland
…[I]t will be my pleasure as well as my duty to accept things as they are and to cooperate with [the legislature] in all measures for the welfare of this great and growing Commonwealth. —Wilbur Cross, 1931
Susan Bigelow is the former owner/author of CTLocalPolitics.com. She lives in Enfield with her wife and cats.