Missouri must make "a fresh start at a difficult time for our state," new Gov. Mike Parson said Monday, in his first address to a joint session of the Legislature.
Parson's speech came just 10 days after he took over as governor, following Eric Greitens' June 1 resignation.
"During this time, we have witnessed politics at its worst and at its best," Parson said. "We have been divided, and we have been united.
Transition to Parson administration continuingRead more
"Missouri has risen to the occasion, as we always do.
"Today is a time for a fresh start for our state and to recommit ourselves — each and every one of us, including you in the galleries — we must work together for a better Missouri."
Although the first months of 2018 have forced Missourians to face "difficult truths" and to make "tough decisions," the governor said, "we persevered because our institutions are strong, and the people of Missouri are stronger."
He noted Missouri government has a long history, with more than 7,000 people who have been elected to a state legislative or constitutional office, and "most were not looking to build a career (or to get) fame or glory or notoriety."
Parson served six years in the Missouri House and another six years in the Senate, before becoming lieutenant governor in January 2017.
He reminded his former colleagues that few today know the names of the state's officials from 100 years ago, and a century from now, "long after each of us has departed from this earth, these seats will continue to exist, held by men and women whose grandparents have not even been born."
Parson added: "Make no mistake: the offices we now hold are far bigger than any one of us."
What makes government work well, he said, is following the responsibilities "given us by our forefathers" in the federal Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to tour stateRead more
"Our job — the job of each and every one of us — is to continue that tradition," the governor said, "which is the framework to be able to live the American Dream and ensure it exists for the next generation."
He added: "We must be careful not to erode the public's trust in our system of government, for short-term personal gain.
"Most of all, we must always remember that we serve the people and the state of Missouri — not the other way around."
Parson's 12-minute speech — including 11 interruptions for applause and standing ovations that were 2 minutes of that time — was the last event of a special session that lawmakers had called themselves into to consider possible punishments, up to and including impeachment, for Greitens.
However, the session's purpose ended with Greitens' June 1 resignation.
Parson did not mention Greitens by name, nor discuss specifics of any of the issues that helped create turmoil in the state in the last few months.
However, Parson said: "Much of the political turmoil that has engulfed our state is a result of these truths being forgotten."
Still, he said, watching the Legislature work during the turmoil, "I have been impressed by the care, prudence and professionalism you have shown as you have sought the truth.
"I am in awe, once again, of the fortitude of our state's institutions."
Parson praised lawmakers for completing the 2018 regular session as "one of the most historic legislative sessions in recent memory. Not enough has been said about it.
"Your many legislative achievements include significant tax reform for Missourians; record education funding for our students; government union reform; a responsible, balanced budget; and many other reforms that made government smaller, more efficient and more effective for Missourians.
"This is how government should work, and this is the people's government and we — all of us in this room — can ensure that it continues to work in the years ahead."
As he serves as Missouri's chief executive for the next 2 years, Parson reminded lawmakers of President Abraham Lincoln's comments near the end of the Civil War: "With malice toward none, with charity for all let us strive on (to) bind up the nation's wounds."
Of Missouri's situation in 2018, Parson said: "As we move forward, together, I pledge that I will spend every day working to make our state stronger and more prosperous.
"I promise that the welfare of the people will be my guiding principle and sole consideration. And I will never forget — never forget — that public service is, first and foremost, about serving Missourians.
"I hope that each of you will join me."