Four years ago, I challenged you to take a chance on your own aspirations — on hope for an economy based on innovation and opportunity, on hope for better schools and universal health care, on hope for better politics.
Four years ago, hope was in short supply. Young people and jobs were leaving our state. Roads and bridges were crumbling. Health care reform had passed, but had not yet been implemented. Stem cell research was restricted. Our clean energy potential was undermined by refusal to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or to support Cape Wind. And we had had too many years of leadership more interested in having the job than doing the job.
Together we set out on a journey to change that. Along the way, the global economy collapsed. Thousands of people lost jobs, lost savings, lost homes. Many, maybe some of you, lost confidence. People all over the Commonwealth began to wonder whether the American Dream itself was up for grabs.
Times like these are more than a test of policy. They are a test of character.
So, when the going got tough, we didn’t look for scapegoats or run for cover. We didn’t lose our temper or our way. Growing up in rough times and rough circumstances taught me not to just curl up and wait for better times. No, what I learned was that optimism and effort, hope and hard work, is the only way to climb out of a hole.
So, just like families across the Commonwealth, we took a fresh look at our plan, stiffened our resolve, and made choices.
We chose to invest in education, in health care, and in job creation, because we all know that educating our kids, being able to count on good health care, and having a job is the path to a better future.
And that’s why today Massachusetts leads the nation in student achievement and health care coverage for our residents.
That’s why we are creating jobs faster than most other states, why our unemployment rate is well below the national average, why we’re coming out of recession faster than the rest of the country, and why CNBC has moved our state up to the fifth best place in America to do business.
That’s why we won the national Race to the Top competition and why we will be home to America’s first offshore wind farm.
That’s also why the CORI system finally got fixed. And why veterans serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world know that we will look after their families when they are away and help them when they come home.
That’s why today for the first time in 20 years young people and families are moving into the Commonwealth faster than they are moving out.
None of this is happening by accident. It’s happening because of the choices we made, the investments you, the Legislature and the people of the Commonwealth, have supported. This and more is happening because we didn’t just sit around and wait for better times. We are building a better future for all of us — by making better choices.
Not everyone supports every choice we’ve made. Some of those choices have made even some of our political allies uncomfortable. But this job and these times demand more than making each other comfortable. The times demand that we face the hard choices before us with candor and courage, and that we act — because doing so today will make us stronger tomorrow.
And we need to keep an eye on tomorrow.
To meet these responsibilities, I challenge us all to turn to each other, not on each other. Let us bring our passion not to scoring political points but to finding real solutions. Let us bear our generational responsibility together.
Because there are real needs in real people’s lives at stake.
Nothing we say or do here today will long be remembered. What will be remembered, what will last, is the light we let shine in our neighbor’s lives and in our Commonwealth. And in some fundamental way, that is all about service and sacrifice.
The service and sacrifice of the soldiers or police officers or fire fighters who put themselves in harm’s way abroad and at home for the rest of us.
The service and sacrifice of the teachers who come in early and stay well past the class day to help a child master their reading.
The service and sacrifice of the immigrant who works three jobs to provide the signature American opportunity he once lay awake dreaming of in a distant homeland.
The service and sacrifice of our parents and grandparents, of our aunts and uncles and cousins and the old ladies in my old neighborhood, and neighborhoods all across the Commonwealth, who chose through some gesture, great or small, to make a better way for each one of us.
What is at stake is the American Dream. It is worth fighting for, worth serving and sacrificing for. I say that not just as your governor, but also as someone who has lived it.