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Read Gov. Wes Moore’s inaugural address

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore addresses those attending his inauguration in Annapolis on Jan. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore addresses those attending his inauguration in Annapolis on Jan. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

ANNAPOLIS – New Gov. Wes Moore delivered the following inaugural address after being sworn in on Jan. 18.

RELATED: Wes Moore sworn in as Maryland’s first Black governor

Hello, Maryland.

God bless you all. God bless you all. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. And from the bottom of my heart. I want to thank you for the honor that you have bestowed upon me. And Aruna Miller as your as your next lieutenant governor.

President [Bill] Ferguson, Speaker Adrienne Jones, members of the Maryland General Assembly, thank you all it is an honor to be your partner. And to all of our state workers, and all who organized this inauguration. Thank you. It is an honor to be your new colleague.

To Governor [Larry] Hogan, We are grateful and thankful for the kindness that you and your team have shown throughout this entire transition period. Thank you for eight years of great service to a state that we both love.

My dear friend Oprah Winfrey, a Maryland girl at heart, thank you for your incredibly kind and gracious introduction. It is an honor to be with you today as always, and thank you for always being in my corner. To your new first lady, my amazing wife Dawn, and to our to the new first babies. Mia and James, you are my heart. You are my soul. You’re my everything. And I love you.

As we stand here today, looking out over Lawyers Mall, and you can see right there the memorial to Justice Thurgood Marshall, it’s impossible not to think about our past and our path. We’re blocks away from the Annapolis docks where so many enslaved people arrived in this country against their will, and we are standing in front of a capitol that was built by their hands. We have made uneven and unimaginable progress since then. And it is a history that has been created by generations of people whose own history was lost, stolen, or never recorded. But one thing we know is that right now we are standing here in our history in our shared history in our collective history, made by people who over the past two centuries, regardless of their origin story to this state, fought and built a state and a country that works for everybody. And there are two people who are here today who embody that spirit who are sitting right here next to me: two extraordinary woman named Hema and Joy. Hema came to this country from India. Joy from Jamaica.

They immigrated to America with hope in their hearts not just for themselves, but for future generations. And now today they are sitting here together at the inauguration of their children to become the governor and lieutenant governor of a state that helped to welcome them. Please stand up please stand up so everybody can see you both.

To Aruna’s mom Hema, and to my mom Joy. You epitomize everything special about this state. And you are proof that in the state of Maryland, anything is possible. Now, yes, Aruna and my portraits are going to look a little bit different from the ones that we’ve always seen in the capitol. But that’s not the point. This journey has never been about making history. It’s about marching forward. Today is not an indictment of the past, today is a celebration of our collective future.

And today, our opportunity to begin this future is so bright it is blinding, but only if we are intentional, inclusive and disciplined in confronting challenges, making hard choices and seizing this opportunity in front of us.

Our state is truly remarkable. From my birthplace of Montgomery County to my adoptive home of Baltimore City. From the sandy beaches of the eastern shore to the rolling hills of Western Maryland, Eastern Shore, go ahead, make yourself known, to the rolling hills of Western Maryland, and everywhere in between, Maryland is home to spectacular natural beauty and dynamic industries and people as talented as they are determined.

But the truth is, Maryland is asset rich and strategy poor. And for too long, we have left too many people behind.

We know what is unacceptable that while Maryland has the highest median income in the country, one in eight of our children live in poverty. We know it is unacceptable that in the home of some of the best medical institutions on the planet, then more than 250,000 Marylanders lack health coverage. We’ve been asked to accept that someone must be left behind and that in order for some to win, it means others must lose. And not only that, we’ve come to expect that the people who have lost will keep losing. We must refuse to accept that.

Instead, I’m asking you to believe that Maryland can be different. I’m asking you to believe that Maryland can be bold, and I’m asking you to believe that in this moment Maryland can lead I’m asking you to understand that it is time for our policies to be as bold as our aspirations and to confront the fact that we have been offered false choices. We do not have to choose between a competitive economy and an equitable one. Maryland should not be 43rd in unemployment or 44th in the cost of doing business. We should not tolerate an eight to one racial wealth gap, not because it only hurts certain groups, but because it prevents all of us from reaching our full potential. We can attract and retain top industries like aerospace like clean energy, like cybersecurity, and raise the minimum wage to $15 to help folks feed their families. Maryland can reward entrepreneurs who take bold risks and provide stability for families in need. Maryland can be the best place in America, for employers and employees. It shouldn’t be a choice. It isn’t a choice and the path or requires us to do both of these things together. And there’s another false choice we often hear that people must choose between feeling safe in their own community and feeling safe in their own skin. Over the last eight years, we have seen the rate of violent crime rise. And many Marylanders have grown weary in their faith that governments can actually keep them safe. We can build a police force that moves with appropriate intensity and absolute integrity and full accountability and embrace the fact that we cannot and will not militarize ourselves to safety.

We can and we will support our first responders who risked everything to protect us and change the inexcusable fact that Maryland incarcerates more black boys than any other state in this country. We will work with communities from West Baltimore to Westminster to share data so we can keep violent offenders off of our streets, and we can welcome people who have earned a second chance back to our communities.

I know what it feels like to have handcuffs on my wrists. I felt that when I was 11 years old. I also know what it’s like to stand with families and mourn the victims of violent crime. We do not have to choose between being a safe state and a just one. Maryland can and will be both.

We’re often told that climate change is a problem for the future. Or something that you only have to worry about if you live in farmlands or in a flood zone. But climate change is an existential threat, and it is happening now in our communities. And so confronting climate change represents another chance for Maryland to lead. We can and we will be a leader in wind technology, in grid electrification and in clean transit.

We will protect our jewel the Chesapeake Bay and address toxic air pollution that shapes our cities. And we will put Maryland on track to generate 100% clean energy by 2035 and create thousands of jobs in the process. Clean energy will not just be a part of our economy. Clean energy will define our economy in Maryland. But that requires everybody — companies, communities, state and local governments, and the people — to take bold and decisive action together. And, importantly, we do not have to choose between giving our children an excellent education and an equitable one.

We will ensure that every single one of our students and every single one of our children knows that this state loves and needs them and we will create policies that can help them thrive. We will invest in our special education students, our English language learners, our LGBTQIA students, students experiencing homelessness and every single child who needs a little extra help and we will see to it that mental and behavioral health challenges do not prevent our children from getting the education that they deserve as well. And while Maryland is home to some of the best, and some of the greatest institutions of higher education in this country, something we should be very, very proud of. We must end this myth that young people must attend one of them in order to be successful. That’s not the path for every student. To be clear, it wasn’t my path. I joined the military when I was 17 years old. I went to a two-year college, and I think things worked out pretty well.

Every student in Maryland will know that there are paths to their success and their fulfillment. And those paths begin with high quality and highly inclusive schools from pre-K to 12th grade. And my own journey started in military school where I learned one of my core values service. I went on to lead soldiers in Afghanistan and my years of service transformed me my character was strengthened. My vistas were widened. And my leadership was tested. I want every young Marylander of every background and from every community to have the opportunity to serve our state. That’s why we will offer a service here option for all high school graduates. A year service can prepare our young people for their careers and also provide our state with future leaders public servants that we desperately need. The challenges that we will face will require all of us to answer this call to service to go out and join the ranks of our teachers in our firefighters, our police officers in our civil servants, our nurses and our union members. You’ve elected me to serve as your governor, but the work will be done together.

Now fair warning. There are going to be skeptics and people who say that we cannot rise above the toxic partisanship that we see too often in today’s politics where people care more about where the idea came from then is it a good idea? Those are the same voices that told me at the beginning of his campaign. You don’t understand how politics works. And to them I said and I say we must govern on big principles and not on petty differences that we must govern in a way that addresses the needs of all of our families and not worrying about what the political order political ideology asks us to believe and ask us to do. That we must govern in a way that we will never forget who it is that we’re fighting for. And what it is that we’re supposed to be fighting for. We know that in this moment we have a chance we have an opportunity. And we have a unique place in space to do something special. And when people say well, how do you know that you can do this or how do you know that you can execute upon this? In this time of divisiveness and this time of political vitriol, my answer is this. It’s the only way that I’ve ever led. You know, a question I never once asked my soldiers when I was leading soldiers in Afghanistan: What’s your political party? It didn’t matter. We had one job one goal in mind and one mission. My job was to unify our unit and go out and accomplish that mission. And it’s the same job and responsibility that we have right now. If we are divided, we can’t win. But if we are united, we can’t lose.

Now we know that we stand here on the cusp at a time of have a measure of elbow historic measure. And we’re very humbled by that. We know that in this time, that while for both Aruna and myself that we’re walking in a space that no we’re able to see higher because of the shoulders that we’re standing on. We also know that is not the assignment. That in this time and in this moment, we have a unique opportunity to lead and to love. We have a unique opportunity to build and to grow. But that opportunity can only happen if we’re doing it together. Now is the opportunity that we have to march forward and to march together and let us march on till victory is won.

Today is not the victory; today is the opportunity. It is our opportunity to lead with love. It is our opportunity to create with compassion. It’s our opportunity to fight fearlessly for our future. Maryland, our time is right now. Our time is now to build a stake that for those who came before us that they fought for and it’s a state that leaves no one behind. This is not a slogan. It is the fulfillment of a hope for Maryland. It’s time let’s leave and let’s do it together. God bless you all and thank you so much.