Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft gave the following remarks during yesterday’s opening of the Missouri General Assembly’s 100th session:
“Good afternoon. Welcome to the opening of the 100th Regular Session of the Missouri General Assembly. It is an honor to open this historic session of the Missouri House of Representatives. May I thank each and every one of you specifically for your willingness to serve the people of Missouri. Every one of you chose to make the demanding commitment to run for public office, which often requires months of travel, separation from your families, working late nights and early mornings. But as you already know, the privilege of representing the people of Missouri far surpasses any challenges you encountered during your campaigns.
The Missouri constitution creates a Republic separated into three distinct branches: The executive, the judiciary, and arguably the most important, the legislature. Some people assert that no other branch of government is as directly accountable to the people as the legislature. We can see this in the very laws of our state.
Members of the legislature may only serve for 16 years, while only two executive branch offices even have term limits. Members of the House are elected to two year terms instead of the four year terms of the executive branch. Additionally, while vacant positions in the executive and the judicial branches may be filled by appointment, state law requires that all legislators be elected by the citizens of their respective districts, and for members of the House, these districts are intentionally kept small to ensure legislators are accountable to their constituents and know their constituents’ will.
Because of this closeness, you have been given great authority to write our laws and determine how the people’s money is spent. The Bible reminds us in the Gospel of Luke: To whom much has been given, much is required. So while I thank you for your service, let me join with you in pledging to the people of Missouri that we will lead with integrity, humility, and grace.
Integrity has been defined as the lifeblood of democracy. And rightfully so, a government of, by, and for the people cannot long survive if the people do not trust their own elected officials. It is my hope that together we can be candid, transparent and honest. Letting yes be yes and no be no. Not just making, but keeping promises. Treating those matters revealed to us in confidence as confidential.
President Ronald Reagan is frequently quoted as saying, ‘There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.’ Far too often, jousting for acclaim stops progress. Let us humbly do what is right and best regardless of who will get the accolades. The accomplishment alone is worth the effort.
Let us show grace and be slow to assume bad faith. We are all imperfect with different strengths and weaknesses. Giving one another the benefit of the doubt is good for all of us. We all fail. All who seek and strive to do things of lasting consequence will fail at times.
And what greater thing of lasting import to strive for than to continually nurture an environment of opportunity for all Missourians. Let me encourage you to cultivate the American dream right here in Missouri and leave an even greater opportunity for success to the next generation.
With your commitment to enhancing educational opportunities, increasing government transparency, providing critical oversight of the executive and judicial branches, we can continue to make Missouri a land of opportunity and ensure a bright future for our state. Finally, let us all be guided by the words of President Abraham Lincoln from his Second Inaugural Address. ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in…’
Thank you and may God bless the great people of the state of Missouri.”