Governor Wolf’s Inaugural Address
January 20, 2015
Chief Justice Saylor; Governor Corbett; Governor Rendell; Lieutenant Governor Stack; Speaker Turzai; President Scarnati; Leader Dermody, Leader Costa, members of the judiciary; leaders and members of the general assembly; family and friends; and above all, my fellow Pennsylvanians:
I am so thankful to so many people here today.
I want to start by thanking Governor Tom Corbett for his many years of service to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
I want thank my best friend and wife of nearly 40 years, Frances Wolf – the love of my life.
Without her incredible love and support, I would not be standing before you today.
I would also like to thank my daughters Sarah and Kate.
I want to say a special thanks to Speaker Mike Turzai, for reminding us when he was sworn in that we “cannot take lightly the great history of democracy of which we are a part,” and encouraging all Members of the legislature to meet with people across the aisle.
I want to thank Chief Justice Tom Saylor, for his observation at his swearing in that any disagreements we may have “are creatures of our aspirations, to value liberty as well as order, and fairness and equality as well as liberty.”
More than anything, I want to thank all Pennsylvanians who worked so hard to get me here, and those who took a chance to vote for a different kind of leader.
To those who didn’t, I hope I’m able to give you a reason to believe over the next four years.
I am an unconventional Governor.
I may be the first governor of Pennsylvania who operated a forklift…managed a hardware store… volunteered for the Peace Corps… and ran a business.
I am not a product of our political system.
During my campaign, I pledged to be a different kind of governor, and I will keep that promise.
We need leaders today who are willing to listen to each other . . . and learn from each other . . . and work together to give all Pennsylvanians a shot at a great life.
This age—and this time—demands nothing less.
We are told that we are living through a transformational era.
The world hasn’t seen this much change happen …this fast …since we moved from farms to factories more than 100 years ago.
For those who are part of that change, who are ready for that change, this new era is creating opportunities that our ancestors never imagined.
But if you travel across our state, you realize that many of our fellow citizens haven’t found their place in this new world yet.
Travel to Bethlehem or York or Reading, to Mt. Wolf or Wellsboro, to inner cities and rural counties across the Commonwealth, and the story is similar.
We used to know what it took to succeed.
We used to know what schooling we needed to find good jobs.
We used to know what skills it took to start and run a business, and to be part of this economy.
But now, we’re not so sure.
We need new skills for a new era.
We need to compete in a whole new way.
Because of it, today, Pennsylvania stands at a crossroads.
The industries that we used to rely on to create good jobs are struggling to survive.
Paychecks aren’t keeping up with the cost of living and ordinary families can no longer afford college or higher education.
And too often, when we’ve looked to our leaders for answers, we’ve been disappointed and frustrated to the point where we feel very cynical about our government and our future.
I ran for governor because I refuse to be part of the first generation of Pennsylvanians forced to tell their kids that they need to go somewhere else to succeed.
I ran for governor because I believe with all my heart that we can rebuild the middle class and get this state back on track.
After all, let’s remember who we are.
Like all of you, I have been proud to be many things in my life.
But above all else, I am proud to be a Pennsylvanian—proud that I was born here, proud that I was raised here, and proud to call this state my home.
And that is why I want to restore the belief that Pennsylvania is not just another state.
Pennsylvania is something bigger, and something better.
It’s an idea.
Pennsylvania is an idea that all things are possible.
It is the idea that William Penn could establish a colony built on a foundation unique in the world at the time—of tolerance and inclusion.
A Holy Experiment, where religious minorities could trade persecution for prosperity and worship God as they saw fit.
It is the idea that, on a summer day in Philadelphia, 56 patriots could sign an extraordinary Declaration that would create a new nation.
It is the idea that we can create new things.
Pennsylvania was the state that gave America its first daily newspaper, its first stock exchange, its first commercial oil well, its first computer, and it’s first Art Museum.
We have always pursued the idea that all things are possible with boldness and with courage . . . and I refuse to believe that we are any less innovative, any less entrepreneurial, or any less committed to building a better future today than our ancestors were.
To create new possibilities, we need to be bold.
We need to work together, and we need to get started.
We have to respect each other’s ideas.
We have to respect each other’s values.
We have to believe that none of us alone has all the answers—but that together, we can find an approach that works.
That is what I have done throughout my career.
I have worked with all kinds of people.
To turn around a business, I had to get everybody to buy into one mission.
I had to get everyone to buy into the powerful idea that all things are indeed possible.
I will bring the same mindset, and the same leadership, to this position.
So, how do we do it?
How do we get Pennsylvania back on track for ordinary Pennsylvanians?
How do we help the people of our state make their lives better?
As you know, I laid out a plan during the campaign to give Pennsylvania a Fresh Start.
And we will debate those ideas in the days to come.
But I want you to know that for the next four years, my administration will be dedicated to three simple goals:
Jobs that pay.
Schools that teach.
And government that works – one that is worthy of our trust.
That is what a Wolf Administration is going to be all about.
First, getting Pennsylvania back on track means we are going to start with jobs that pay.
As a business owner, I know that the free market requires a constructive partner in government.
That means our government should not do everything, but it cannot do nothing either.
One thing that it can do to create more economic opportunity is make smart, strategic investments in public goods—investments in education, health, transportation, and infrastructure that set the table for robust private sector growth.
Another thing it can do is create the conditions necessary to bring manufacturing jobs back to our state—and that’s exactly what I plan to do.
In Pennsylvania, we are also blessed with an abundance of natural resources: gas, timber, coal, sun, wind, fresh water, open spaces, agricultural land, beautiful scenery, and an opportune location that made us the Keystone State.
To fulfill our potential, we must take full and responsible advantage of these resources.
To the protesters here today, I say: help me develop these opportunities in a way that is clean, safe and sustainable.
If we want to be a state where the next generation can envision a bright future, Pennsylvania has to offer a level playing field where entrepreneurs can be confident their risks will be fairly rewarded.
The companies and countries that are thriving in today’s global economy are those that are committed to diversity, inclusiveness, and fairness.
All of Pennsylvania’s families deserve those same opportunities, no matter what their race, sexual orientation, where they started life, or who they are.
My company has a profit sharing plan because I believe that my people deserve to share in the benefits of their hard work, but also it makes my company better.
Being inclusive, being fair, and paying good wages are not just the right things to do, they are the smart things to do.
And that is how we are going to grow the economy.
Second, getting Pennsylvania back on track also means we need schools that teach and provide all of our young people with the skills they need to find good jobs and compete in the global economy.
In this limited government, free market system, our collective future depends on the next generation.
Our state will never be as strong as it needs to be if some schools have all the resources they need and other schools are cutting band and football just to keep the lights on.
That is why nothing is more essential than working together to make sure that every child in
Pennsylvania has access to a great education, and that all teachers have the resources they need to deliver a great education.
From early childhood to college and apprenticeships and training, we must strive to provide our kids an education that is both affordable and second to none.
Our schools must be our highest priority.
And finally, getting Pennsylvania back on track means creating a government that works – one that is worthy of your trust.
We have to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars-and we have to be stewards of a grand Democratic tradition.
We need a government that is more efficient, and less wasteful.
But we also need a government that is responsive to the concerns and needs of the people it serves.
By all means, let’s get rid of things that make no sense –outdated laws silly regulation.
But let’s focus on leveling the playing field making sure all businesses, all Pennsylvanians, have a chance to get ahead.
Let’s work to put the interests of our hardworking families ahead of the special interests.
That is the kind of government I intend to lead.
With a large deficit, stagnant wages, and a shrinking middle class, there is no question that our challenges are great.
But let’s remember: the last time that America went through a great transformation, it was Pennsylvania that led the nation through the Industrial Revolution.
We led then—and we can lead today.
But it’s going to take every one of us, working together to create a better future.
I understand the indifference that some people feel.
I understand why fewer than 42 percent of Pennsylvanians turned out in the last election.
Our experience has made us cynical, but we cannot allow that cynicism to deflate our democratic spirit or destroy our capacity for effective self-governance.
Over the last three centuries, every generation has been called upon to write a new chapter to carry the idea of Pennsylvania forward.
Now is our time.
As your Governor, I will do everything in my power to make Pennsylvania a place where jobs pay, schools teach, government works . . . and where all Pennsylvanians can believe in the fundamental notion that our democracy still works.
I hope that elected officials from both parties will join me in this effort.
But it is up to all of us, the citizens of Pennsylvania, to reclaim our government.
I am asking for ideas, I am asking for passion, and I am asking for hard work.
Because I know that if we come together with a sense of shared purpose, we can build the better future that Pennsylvania deserves.
Now, let’s get started.
May God bless us in this noble task, and may God bless the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.