Sally Pederson

Thank You: Inaugural Address - Jan. 15, 1999

Sally Pederson
January 15, 1999— Des Moines, Iowa
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Senator Harkin, Congressman Boswell, Governor Branstad, Governor ¬elect Vilsack, Chief Justice McGivern, Distinguished members of the Judiciary, Honorable Members of the General Assembly, Executive Council Members, and Fellow Iowans.

First I want to thank my husband, Jim Autry, for his love and support for me in this great adventure called life. I couldn't wish for a better partner.

I also want to thank my parents, Gerald and Wineva Pederson, for their constant and abiding love. They were the very first Republicans to sign on to the Vilsack/Pederson campaign ticket. And I wish I could thank all of my family members by name, my stepsons, brothers, my sister and extended family. But I have a big family and if I start down that list we will be here past lunch.

I do want to acknowledge my son Ronald, because without him and without his specialness, I would never have found my way into the world of advocacy and that is the road that brought me here. So thank you, Ronald.

It's wonderful to be here. Beyond the pride I have taken in my family, this is the proudest and at the same time most humbling moment of my life. I'm proud to have been selected by Tom Vilsack and the citizens of this state to help lead Iowa into the 21st century. And I am humbled by the trust and faith all of you have placed in me. And I want to tell you something.

As unbelievable as it may seem, I never doubted for a minute -- from the moment I was nominated -- that Tom and I would be standing here today. I never doubted it because I'm an optimist. You see, my parents worked hard and were optimistic about their future. And they raised all five of their children in that atmosphere of optimism. The reason my parents are optimists is that they -- like you and many of your parents -- learned from watching their ancestors that nothing was impossible.

This state was settled by people who brought with them little more than ingenuity and determination.

No problems were unsolvable. Nothing dulled their spirit for this beautiful, fertile land. What would they say to Iowans today? What would they say to us? We tell pollsters we are generally satisfied with our lives, but are watching in dismay as we:

  • see our students' test scores slip
  • see many schools in need of repair
  • see streams and rivers fouled by pollution
  • and see methamphetamine tearing at families and communities.

These problems strike at our soul. For Iowans have always known that while we couldn't provide ocean views, mountain ranges, and the bright lights of the biggest cities, we could provide the thing that really mattered: the highest standards in education, a clean environment, and wonderful communities to raise our families.

When these are threatened, Iowa's very sense of self is threatened. Our ancestors, those sturdy pioneers, would tell us to roll up our sleeves and get to work as a community. "Every member of the community is important," they would tell us. "Civic responsibility is important," they would tell us. And they would tell us something else: "Don't leave anybody out. Cast a big net and draw in everyone, those new to politics, those who've just arrived in our state, and those who have not traditionally had a voice in government."

Here's an amazing fact: Iowa has more small communities than any other state in the nation. This means that more of our people have the opportunity to serve, and be involved in the running of this state.

Iowa must make use of all its people. Civic responsibility cannot be left to a few. For civic responsibility isn't reserved for those of one background, or one gender, or one age.

Tom Vilsack gave me, an outsider to politics, an extraordinary opportunity to run for office, and you the citizens have given me an extraordinary opportunity to serve. I'd like this spirit of inclusion to spread to make this a better state for all of our citizens. This shouldn't be hard, because Iowa has a proud history of reaching out to others. Whether it was welcoming Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s or piling sandbags during the flood of 1993, neighbor helping neighbor has been the very soul of our state. One writer called it "the casserole reflex" -- Iowans automatically give to others in need.

The Vilsack-Pederson administration wants to build on this generous spirit to create opportunities for all Iowans. It is my deepest hope that our administration will, more than anything else, stand for opportunity.

Opportunity for Iowa -- all Iowa -- to prosper. Opportunity for Iowans -- all Iowans, no matter what their background, their economic status, or their special circumstances -¬to thrive.

I am confidant this is what the Vilsack-Pederson administration will bring to Iowa: A government of optimism in a land of opportunity. And add one other thing: Commitment, because optimism without commitment won't get the job done.

It is my most fervent hope that in this state of opportunity, the government of optimism will rebuild our hopes, rekindle our dream, and reinvigorate our lives.

But you can't solve problems if you can't see them. You can't help people if you don't know them.

So I am pledging today to do volunteer service somewhere in our state each week, and I challenge others to do the same. I plan to help school children with their reading, to serve meals at a homeless shelter, to help a neighborhood clean-up project, or any other task that will help me learn about the problems and the people working to solve them throughout this great state. I know there are many needs, but I know also that Iowa has many willing hands.

I come here this morning, a small-town Iowan who has always loved Iowa, a businesswoman who chose to stay in Iowa, a mother, grandmother, and aunt who wants her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to have opportunities in Iowa -- I come here this morning to ask just one thing of you.

Please join us. Please join us in this government of optimism in this lovely, rich land blessed by God and nurtured by our ancestors. Please join us in this government of optimism in this great state of opportunity. Together, we can create the Iowa of our dreams.

Thank you.