129th Legislative Session – Election as Speaker of the House

REMARKS AS PREPARED

Representatives, family, friends.  Welcome to the People’s House. When this chamber is full of people, you can start to sense the enormity of the work we do here,  the meaning of this place, it’s history, it’s impact on people’s lives and yes – the raucous nature of a chamber of 151 people who were elected by their friends and peers.

Today is the beginning of something special indeed and I extend my warmest congratulations congratulations to each and every one of you –  members of the 129th Maine House of Representatives and to all your family members, supporters and friends who are here today and who have sacrificed so much to help you get here.

I join with them to celebrate you and your election as members of the 129th Maine Legislature.

Although today is about looking to our future, I want to start by taking a moment for us to pause – to look back together and to appreciate the hard work it took for you to get here.

Whether you are brand new or about to be sworn in for your fourth term, or if you are John Martin (your 26th),  you have achieved an incredible goal. You did it with hard work, with determination, and for many –  with thousands of homes whose doors you knocked on.

You had conversations with strangers and old friends alike.  

You convinced family, if you are Democrat Dan Hobbs, you convinced your 4 Republican brothers.  You participated in forums and debates, did newspaper interviews, spent hours learning about issues.  

You climbed rickety porches, used lots of hand sanitizer and sometimes probably made decisions about getting out of the car, based purely on the size or bark of a dog. Most importantly, you listened to the stories of what really matters to your friends and neighbors.  And you learned what’s really happening in their lives.

You did all this because you cared and because you were committed.  And most likely you did this, not worrying about the R or D or I after your name, but instead worrying about the responsibility of being able to adequately represent people.

I expect that you, like me, will never be able to drive through your district again without remembering people’s stories.  Stories of success and family, stories of hunger or chronic sickness – stories of despair and stories of hope.

That is the path that led each of us here – to the Maine House of Representatives – the people’s House – where each of us represents the closest connection that any single maine person might have with our state government.   

From Sanford to Fort Fairfield, from Casco to Calais, from Dover Foxcroft to Presque Isle and every corner of Maine’s 16 counties – it’s true that each of us was sent here by the women and men who voted in our district.  

And though our districts might face unique challenges that we understand when we are from that place, though our districts might sometimes need us to advocate for them on an individual basis, the truth is this.  

That we, all of us, represent all the people of Maine.  

It is this solidarity, it is those connections, from each one of us –  to thousands of Mainers in communities across our state, that makes me feel an incredible sense of humility and responsibility about the oath I just swore as a Representative and as Speaker .  

So, I thank you and I tell you that I am honored to continue my service to you and to continue my service to our state as Speaker of the Maine House.

I found, during my last two years as Speaker – that these words naturally came out of my mouth one day.   That aside from being a mom to my kids, serving as Speaker was the greatest privilege of my life.

As I enter my “senior” year here, it seems like just yesterday that I sat in this chamber for the first time.  My three children were small enough that they all fit into my lap and around my chair when I was sworn into the 126th Legislature in seat 71.  

Now they are 11,  14 and 15 and I’m telling my oldest son things like –  don’t you drive that fast and no, you can’t have your girlfriend over without us being home.  All while looking up at him instead of down.

Yes, this is sometimes, how we mark the passage of years during our tenure in the State House – by the growth of our children and grandchildren.  Though a lot has changed, both at home, here in the State House, here in Maine, and certainly at the national level, there are some constants that have remained.

Those three kids, who are sitting right there, are still my inspiration for this job. They challenge me to think a little differently about issues. They remind me of what really matters and the type of State we want them to inherit. And when the stress of this building can be overwhelming, they bring me right back to where I need to be.

I want to thank you, Julian – Alek and Josie – for putting up with this all these years.  And i want to thank my dear husband Ben, who absolutely, ceaselessly encourages me in everything I do, sets the bar for excellence incredibly high by his own approach to life and work and family, but who also – at the beginning and end of every day, puts joy and fun and love into our lives.

Fellow members of the 129th Legislature, as I talk to you today, well, I was struggling a little bit with how to talk about starting fresh and resetting ourselves. I mean – let’s just be honest – we’ve been through a heck of a lot together.  And it doesn’t matter how you phrase it – forgiving, resetting, looking forward – doing so can be challenging. Especially in the politically charged and social media saturated world we live in today.

But for the sake of everything we believe in, that is  what we must do. For the sake of every person who voted for us…or didn’t, that’s what we must do.  For our kids today and their kids tomorrow – that’s what we must do.

So, I wanted to start this day off by asking something of each of us, everyone of us, including me.

First – believe in each other’s goodness and intentions.  Remember that we often share the same goals – but with different ideas about how to achieve them. And that even when our goals are different, that the other person’s perspective is rooted in something as equally important and real as yours.   Values, family, religion, life experience. And by the way, don’t think i’m purely talking about people in different parties from each other…

Second – don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable.  Really. Sitting next to a stranger can be hard and listening to another point of view can be extremely uncomfortable. But being one of the people who sit around a horseshoe or table together, compromising, letting go of one thing you thought could only be done “this way” – adding another – until new legislation or a new way of doing things is achieved – well, it can be scary but it is ultimately the way we have achieved anything and everything with lasting significance in this country.

Third  – argue fair.  Our arguments, at root, are always about our disagreement on how things should be done.  They are never about doubting the intention of each other. This will become one of the greatest challenges in the heat of the moment and it may not seem important – but it is.  It’s how we argue with each other, sometimes convince each other and honestly, maybe most importantly – it’s how we leave this chamber and continue friendship and camaraderie.  And, you know – that’s what politics is.  

Fourth – dare to be great.  We are so often fettered and weighed down by linear thinking, tradition, a belief that “this is the way things are done”, just because it’s how they HAVE been done.   If our founding fathers had followed that motto, we wouldn’t be here today. Our challenges are enormous, but our resources and our opportunity are so much greater.

Modern infrastructure, lower healthcare costs, educating our kids, taking care of seniors, growing opportunities for families and businesses to start here and thrive here.  These issues are NOT rocket science and they are not partisan. They are what we can tackle together. And if we do, imagine where Maine will be.

Because we all want better health, education, jobs and opportunities for our communities.  We all have infrastructure that needs attention. We all care about clean water, clean air and preserving Maine’s natural beauty for future generations. All these things I ask of you – I ask of myself too.  Please hold me to it.

We have so much that binds us together. Our foundation is so strong and the next chapter is waiting for us.  Let’s take risks together. Let’s dare to be great.

Thank you for giving me the privilege of standing here with you today.  I look forward to serving with all of you and working with you to improve the lives of everyone living in the great State of Maine.