Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2007 Inaugural Address

USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice.

My fellow Californians, three years ago you elected me as your governor. These three years have been the most fulfilling of my life. Every day has been an adventure. My escapes have been more hair-raising than anything I did in the movies.

And throughout it all, it has been an absolute joy to serve you -- the people of California. Thank you, I am grateful beyond words for your continued faith and hope.

Faith and hope are two qualities that are in short supply in the world right now. When I was a boy in history class in Austria, we learned about the Fertile Crescent, that region of the Near and Middle East where agriculture first flourished.

Today, the region is fertile with bloodshed and hate. Further south in Africa is a place of genocide called Darfur. Imagine the terror of running for your life, but not knowing where to run to escape the killing, the disease, the hunger. There are such deep divisions in our human family.

And yet here in this nation-state of California, people from all over the world live in harmony. I call California a nation-state because of the diversity of our people, the power of our economy and the reach of our dream. Every race, every culture, every religion has been drawn to California. The commerce and trade of the nations of the earth pass through our ports. The world knows our name. We are a good and global commonwealth. Yes, we have problems that must be solved. But, it remains true . . . what a prosperous, peaceful, golden state in which we live and work and raise our families. We should never forget the joys and blessings of being Californians.

As governor, I feel a responsibility to conduct the public business in a way that furthers these blessings . . . so that our people continue to live in harmony and prosperity. How we do that is what I’d like to talk to you about today.

Three years ago when I was sworn in, I said that the recall election was not about replacing one man or one party. It was about changing the entire political climate of the state. It was about creating a new culture in Sacramento. It was about fulfilling the will of the people.

In the 2005 special election, I took the wrong approach in trying to do these things. But in my failure, I rediscovered my original purpose. Like Paul on the road to Damascus, I had an experience that opened my eyes. And what was it that I saw? I saw that people, not just in California, but across the nation, were hungry for a new kind of politics, a politics that looks beyond the old labels, the old ways, the old arguments.

The California historian Kevin Starr says that we must think of ourselves as belonging not just to the Republican Party or the Democratic Party . . . but to the Party of California . . . because California is a collective ideal worth preserving. The Party of California is beyond ideology and one to which all of us belong.

There are growing numbers of independent voters in this state. In fact, if the current trend continues, they will outnumber each of the major parties in 20 years. They like some Republican ideas. They like some Democratic ideas. They think some Republican ideas are too far right. They think some Democratic ideas are too far left. And they rightly know that if you stick to just one party’s proposals you miss half the good ideas.

Some pundits said that I won reelection because I co-opted the Democratic agenda. Some said that the Democratic Legislature, by working with me to increase the minimum wage or reform prescription drug costs, abandoned the Democratic nominee for governor. This is the kind of partisan thinking that frustrates the voters and diminishes our democracy. The people are disgusted with a mindset that would rather get nothing done than accomplish something through compromise. I want to thank the Legislature for taking action this past year on behalf of the people, not politics. I thank them for taking that risk.

The question is not what are the needs of Republicans or Democrats? The real question is what are the needs of our people? We don’t need Republican roads or Democratic roads. We need roads. We don’t need Republican health care or Democratic health care. We need health care. We don’t need Republican clean air or Democratic clean air. We all breathe the same air. When California ’s leaders have worked together, we have accomplished good things.

Consider the danger of global warming. Imagine your child is sick with a rising fever. If 98 out of 100 doctors said the child needed immediate treatment . . . and two doctors said the child was just fine . . . who would you listen to? The 98 or the 2? Should we do nothing about global warming on the slim-chance a few skeptics who deny its existence may be right? No, we should not.

So this last year California passed the world’s most comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gases. Why? One. Because it’s the environmentally moral thing to do. Two. Because, although the United States represents only 5% of the world’s population, we emit 25% of the greenhouse gases. And three. Because California genuinely has the power to influence the rest of the nation, even the world.

Now, capping emissions -- the government stick approach -- by itself could harm our economy, so we created a free-market system to trade emissions. By turning carbon into a commodity and trading it as a financial derivative, we have harnessed the self-interest of capitalism to heal the environment. And with the power of California ’s trillion dollar economy behind us, we have set something else in motion. We become the best place in the world to invest in new, green technologies. In time, this will further strengthen the foundation of California’s technological economy.

Ladies and gentlemen, we face important issues that should unite us. I believe we have the opportunity to move past partisanship . . . past bi-partisanship . . . to post-partisanship. Post-partisanship is not simply Republicans and Democrats each bringing their proposals to the table and working out differences. Post-partisanship is Republicans and Democrats actively giving birth to new ideas together. I believe it would promote a new centrism and a new trust in our political system. And I believe we have a window to do it right now.

At one time, the greatest public policy innovations came from liberals, such as during the New Deal. Then the most innovative ideas came from conservatives, such as Ronald Reagan. It is time we combined the best of both ideologies into a new creative center. This is a dynamic center that is not held captive by either the left or the right or the past.

Centrist does not mean weak. It does not mean watered down or warmed over. It means well-balanced and well-grounded. The American people are instinctively centrist . . . so should be our government. America’s political parties should return to the center. They should return to the center where the people are.

No one ideology can solve prison reform or immigration reform or any of the other challenges facing us. It will take the best ideas of everyone. It will take creative thinking. It will take negotiations. It will take letting go of the past.

And what will be the result of our working together? Let me tell you my vision of California twenty years from now. It is a big vision. In reply, some may say, "Arnold, it’s just a dream." Well, yes, it is a dream, but how can we grow into something greater, something better, something more meaningful without a dream to guide us?

What would such a California look like? Well . . . our people, no matter their culture or religion, still live in peace. Their health is strong because of the air they breathe, the care they receive, the lifestyles they lead. Their children are educated in schools that open the doors to a productive and fulfilling life.

Because we rebuilt our infrastructure, we have the schools, the roads, the ports, the water, the levees, the communications to grow with prosperity. Because we committed ourselves to the environment, we lead the world in the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, and, as a result, a clean-tech industry has sprung up creating jobs for our people. Because we were leaders in stem cell research, California’s bio-tech industry has boomed, offering new cures for spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases. Because we took action to correct our fiscal crisis, state government will have learned, once and for all, to live within its means. And because we strengthened and reformed representative government, our state’s elected officials now reflect the views of the mainstream, not the fringes. In return, our citizens once again have trust and respect in their government.

I ask you, why can’t California be this dream? The United States needs us to be this. The world needs us to be this.

For billions of people around the world, California itself is a dream. They ache to have what we so often take for granted. If they simply could live here, work here, raise their families here, their dreams would be fulfilled. So, to the cynics, I say do not dismiss dreams as idle visions.

Ladies and gentlemen, my dream is that California, the nation-state, the harmonious state, the prosperous state, the cutting-edge state, becomes a model, not just for 21st century American society, but for the larger world.

It’s been said that most places are united by their pasts . . . but California is united by its future. Other places are united by what was . . . but we are united by what can be.

As I begin this new term as your governor, I make this simple pledge to the people of California . I will look to the future. I will look to the center. I will look to the dreams of the people.

Thank you very much.

USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy