It is an incredible honor to be here with you today as the 49th governor of the great state of Michigan.
I would not be here today without my family, who I’ve got to acknowledge. My husband, Marc; my daughters Sherry, Sydney; my stepsons; my father; my sister; my brother – thank you all so much for your support, for the sacrifices you’ve made over these two years, for inspiring me every single day. I love you.
I am honored to be joined by Gov. Snyder, Gov. Granholm, and Gov. Blanchard.
And but for the Spartans being on the West Coast and Governor Milliken not being able to join us – I know he and Governor Engler would be here, too.
Each of them knows the incredible opportunity - and sacrifice– in holding this office, and we owe each of them a debt of gratitude and appreciation for their service and for being here today. Thank you.
As I think about the monumental task that lies ahead, another one of my predecessors comes to mind.
Over 60 years ago, Governor G. Mennan Williams – also known as “Soapy” Williams – a Democrat – worked with a Republican legislature and built the Mackinac Bridge.
Now at the time, people believed building a suspension bridge that long was not possible. Others thought politicians would not be able to put their differences aside and get it done. They even mocked it, calling it “Soapy’s Folly.”
But leaders, together from both parties, and workers from across our state, proved them all wrong. And in November 1957, against the odds, the Mighty Mac opened and it connected our peninsulas. It connected our people and it strengthened our economy. And most of all, it sent a powerful message to the world: Don’t ever bet against Michigan.
In the spirit of that great legacy, I want to recognize the incoming legislative leadership – Senate Majority Leader Shirkey; Senate Democratic Leader Ananich; House Speaker Chatfield; and House Democratic Leader Greig – and all of the members of the legislature who have joined us here today. I look forward to working with you over the next weeks and months and years.
We may belong to different parties, but we are all here today for the same reason. We are proud Michiganders, first and foremost. And we owe it to the people we serve to cast partisanship aside. To roll up our sleeves. To build bridges together.
I feel lucky to have called Michigan home, my whole life. I grew up in Grand Rapids and learned the value of community and hard work. I got a world-class education from Michigan State in East Lansing. And law school in Detroit. After law school I wanted to make my home in East Lansing, near my parents and I knew this was the place I wanted to raise my family.
Because to me, Michigan is more than just a place. It’s a way of life.
Up North and the lakes in summer. Football in the fall. Hunkering down at home in the winter – or freezing out here with thousands of your friends.
And thawing out in the spring . . . if we’re lucky – knock on wood.
We love our four seasons and our proud traditions.
Of course, we know what truly makes Michigan special are the people who call this state home. Our diverse cultures, backgrounds, and experiences that strengthen the fabric of our communities – from paczki to pasty…from miner to motorhead.
And whether you live in Gogebic County, Grosse Ile or Grand Rapids, all Michiganders share some common traits that are part of the legacy we’ve inherited in this great state we call home.
I’m talking about grit. And humility. Dreaming up something new and building it with our own two hands.
That’s how we became a hotbed of innovation and created music that moved the world.
It’s why Michigan will forever be known by names like Reuther, Ford, and Aretha.
It’s why, a century after we led a global manufacturing revolution, we still have the best workforce on the planet – from our farmers to our factory workers, to our incredible state employees who work tirelessly to keep Michigan strong. There’s no place in the world like our state and no people in the world like Michiganders.
And no question that Michigan has as much God-given potential as any place on Earth.
While potential is universal, we know that opportunity is not.
And right now, in Michigan, too few have the opportunity they deserve. That’s not an easy thing to admit, but we must be clear-eyed about the challenges we face.
Now is the time to confront our problems head-on and say – in one voice – let's get it done.
Over the past two years, I traveled the state and listened to people’s concerns, and the same issues came up again and again and again.
My campaign slogan got a lot of attention, but the truth is I didn’t come up with it. It was a working mom at a hospital in Detroit who told me, “Gretchen, I just need you to fix the damn roads.”
I heard similar messages from all 83 counties, from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.
We might live in divisive times, but Michigan’s problems are not partisan.
Potholes are not political. Or better skills. Or great schools for our kids.
I will be a governor for everyone.
And I am committed to working across party lines to ensure that all Michiganders have opportunity.
That means rebuilding our roads and bridges. Cleaning up our water. And ensuring that everyone gets the education and skills they need to get a good-paying job.
These issues affect us all.
These things are the foundation of secure families, strong communities, and a more prosperous state.
None of us can afford to compromise Michigan’s economic future because we won’t compromise with one another.
Let me say that again: None of us can afford to compromise Michigan’s economic future because we won’t compromise with one another.
Divided government might make solving problems harder, but not impossible.
We need to come together now – not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Michiganders.
So, let’s fix our roads, and be the state that is not paralyzed by partisanship, but works together.
Let’s create the blueprint for rebuilding Michigan and this United States’ crumbling infrastructure, and we’ll be the blueprint right here in Michigan.
Let’s show the rest of the country how to solve America’s literacy crisis, and show them what good government actually looks like.
And let’s build a stronger Michigan that is – once again – a center of economic opportunity and mobility for people around the world.
I’m not saying it's going to be easy. Many will question whether we can protect our families and bolster our economy by fixing those roads. They may not believe we that we can solve the literacy crisis. And no doubt, some are betting against us when it comes to closing the skills gap.
But we are up to it, Michigan.
We have always defied the odds. And we are going to do it again, together. We are going to prove that our shared future is so much more powerful than the issues that divide us.
If we put our differences aside and get to work, we will come back stronger than ever.
At a time when too many people want to separate and divide us by building walls, we here in Michigan are going to get back to building bridges together.
I know I didn’t get here on my own.
I’m here because, over the past year, the people of Michigan showed up.
At town halls, at rallies, and in record numbers on Election Day.
I am so grateful that you did. But our work is just beginning.
I’m asking that you keep showing up.
Keep showing your passion for our state. Keep demanding action from our leaders.
And let’s join forces, as Michiganders, to build bridges together.
Bridges over waters. Bridges between parties. And bridges to a brighter future for every one of us.
Let's get to work Michigan!
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