Governor Engler, Governor Blanchard, Senator Levin, elected officials, my fellow Michiganians.
We mark our lives with singular moments at which we stop and wonder. 46 years and 20 centuries ago, Julius Caesar rearranged the calendar and decreed that the new year would begin on this day, the first day in the month of January, named for the god Janus. To mark the occasion, Romans gave a new year's gift of a coin with Janus' mythic head. Janus, you see, had two faces -- one looking back, the other looking forward. Today, more than 2000 years later, this is still our new year's tradition: We reminisce. We resolve. We look back and look ahead.
The god Janus was the god of entrances--of gates and of doors. Now, as I walk through this door that 46 men have passed through before me - over 165 years of this state's history - I must stop and turn and honor all those who made it possible for me to even reach this door. I give thanks for my parents and my family, my great teachers, the activists, workers, and citizens who cared and who voted. I pay homage to the brave women and to the just men who blazed the trail to this door. In particular, I bow to those women who showed me how to rap upon its aged wood, who inch by inch cracked the door ajar, who looked in but were denied admittance. I pay respect to all whose faith in democracy, whose belief in equality and humanity cried out: "knock and the door shall be opened."
My friends, because of you, the door has been forever opened. And for you young people in front of me, and by you young people, the door must be opened wider still, so that no characteristic - like gender, race, national origin, or religion - will ever again contain the secret codes that allow admission.
And now that the door has been opened, my friends, you must come in. All of you. Come into the halls of government. It is no accident that one of the chambers in our Capitol is called the House of Representatives. The house of government is your house. And the work in your house - in our house - must be the protection of the Michigan family and the education of Michigan's children.
As the Bible says, "there are many rooms in our father's house," and much work to be done, if our elders are to be dignified and our children's hopes are to be magnified. We do not have the luxury of closing the door to anyone's talent.
The door has been opened, so bring in an air of innovation. The door has been opened, so breathe a renewed air of citizen patriotism, duty and service to one another. The door has been opened, so bring in an air of possibility and hope. The door has been opened, and open it will remain.
Inside those doors of government, we will focus with tenacity on the needs of the Michigan family. We will focus on:
The grandmother I met in Southfield on Sunday who wonders which of her prescriptions will have to go unfilled;
The 3rd grade girl who wants to learn but whose potential still lies totally unseen;
The laid off worker I met in Flint on Saturday, who asks for nothing more than good work to support his family,
The mentally ill uncle who winds his way in search of shelter on a bitter winter day.
And the next generations of the Michigan family who look to us to protect our clean water and the unspoiled open spaces of these spectacular peninsulas.
Government will be great and it will do great, but it will take much more than government to enhance our quality of life, especially in these tough, tight, trying economic times. It will take all of us working together as a family. And, as a family, I know that you will engage with me in setting our priorities, in deciding what is most vital for the public good. Understand, I am prepared to make the tough decisions, yet the house stands strong when the family thinks, talks, argues, resolves and ultimately works together.
Citizenship in a democracy is not a spectator sport, particularly in times as tough as we're in. In his 1961 inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy called our nation to aspire to a new ethic of service. "Ask not what your country can do for you," he so famously said on that cold January day, "ask what you can do for your country." By necessity and because it is right, I will lead in these "Ask not" times. So work with me, my friends. If ten million of us asked what we could do for Michigan, what wonders would our reality hold tomorrow?
Within the course of every day lie a thousand opportunities to give your life meaning through service to country and community. What can you do, in Flint or Frankfort, Monroe or Marquette, Kalamazoo, Clare or Kalkaska? Answer the call for a new Michigan patriotism. For a local school that lacks the paint or power to fix the front door. For a child whose never been read to. For a senior who has no one to care whether she rises from bed and puts on her clothes. Answer the call, citizen patriots, answer it for your own soul that is made to care, to serve, and to belong.
I am particularly asking our youngsters to lead the way. The young people sitting in this hall today are the future in our very midst. You, my young friends, hold in your hands the power to change the world. So ask not what power will do for you, ask what you will do with your power to impact our world.
So now, with the doors of our destiny thrown open wide, I invite you to participate in the bending of history in some purposeful way. You were drawn here today. Someone rapped upon,
tapped upon, whispered at your door. Someone, flesh or spirit, said, "Go, you need to be there -this moment, when history is made." Our history - the story that began with our founding fathers and mothers - beckons to you, right now, and says quite simply, "You matter. Now, what to you shall matter?" What chapter of our history will you now write?
I stand before you as living proof that the door is open to every single one of you in this room. Any one of us can run for office, and every one of us can elect to serve this Michigan family.
So, like the god Janus, let us look forward with unapologetic dreams and the unblinking determination to fulfill them. Walk with me, talk with me, work with me, to light anew the flame of engagement, of action and of service to our Michigan family. May that flame cast its light in every corner of this our common home and may it reflect like a beacon for all to follow.
Thank you and God bless you, my fellow patriots.