Gov. Howard Dean
Farewell Address
State House
Montpelier, VT
January 8, 2003


...thank you.  This is something I've wanted to do a long time, and that's give a speech without a written text.  I don't like to speak from written texts, but every time I've come before you before, in the end of the session speeches which usually are at 3 o'clock in the morning, I've had to speak from a written text.  So who knows what may happen.  [laughter].

But I should, I can't resist, even on what should be a very solemn occasion and it is one, passing on a remark that the Speaker, who I congratulate on his newly elected position, that the Speaker passed on to me as we got up.  He said, you know Governor, this reminds me of something you said to me last year at this time which is that they always clap the most when you're going out. [laughter].

Twenty years ago to this day I was right over here in seat number 26 with Bob Harris on one side and Jean O'Sassey [phon.] on the other.  And there are not a lot of people here who remember Jean-O and Bob and they were great people and I learned a lot.  And I just want to first say that those of you who are new to this body are about to come into an extraordinary experience because the legislative body is a place where you learn an enormous amount about Vermont and where you really do give back to the people who sent you here, and its a huge honor and its also an enormous amount of fun.

And it brings up in my mind what an extraordinary thing having a citizen legislature is.  A citizen legislature is about people who do their job in the legislature part time and then go home and do their other job part time as well.  And it has a wonderfully refreshing effect on democracy because you have to live with the laws that you pass.  And I've always believed that this country would be better off if every legislature were a citizen legislature and this state is better off because of it.  I congratulate you; I thank you for the very, very hard work that you're about to do.

One of the things that's important in a citizen legislature is that you will make friends and you will make friends I hope across the aisle.  Some of your close friends will be of the opposite party that you are.  Because the people sent us here not because we're Republicans or Democrats, they sent us here because we're Vermonters, and we're Vermonters above all else.  And in that spirit I want to urge you to join me in supporting Governor-elect Douglas, because it is in our best interest as Vermonters that Jim Douglas have a most successful governorship, and I intend to do my part to make sure that he [could?]  [applause].  Jim please stand and be recognized. [applause continues].

I have a lot of thank yous, and I hope you'll bear with me.  The first thing I want to say and it also pertains to those of you who are sitting in this chamber, particularly for the first time--.  Politics is a business where we need to go out and convince people that they ought to vote for us, and so we tend to emphasize all the things that we have done as individuals that require people now to vote for us in exchange.  But the truth is that not one of us, not me, not you, not any elected official, ever accomplishes anything by themselves.

And for the eleven and a half years that I've been extraordinarily privileged to serve you, and the things that I'm most proud of--fiscal discipline, health insurance for all kids under 18 kids prevention, conservation of hundreds of thousands of acres, all these things, state buildings in downtowns--all these things were done with lots of help.

And the first people I want to thank are the extraordinary people in the administration: secretaries, deputies, commissioners, deputy commissioners, and particularly the staff on the fifth floor, and I'd like to ask them to rise and thank them very, very much.  [applause].

I also want to thank a group of people who never get enough credit, because we're always tempted to blame faceless people in the bureaucracy when things don't go well.  But the truth is that not one implementation of any bill that is ever passed by you or signed by me would ever be done if it were not for the roughly 7,500 people that work for us as salaried employees, and I'd like to ask all state employees in this building to stand up and be thanked for eleven and a half years by me and all of us who owe you so much for delivering on the things that we've been asked to do.  [applause].

Finally, on a very personal--actually not quite finally--on a very personal note, I think only Jim Douglas will know why and he won't know this for a while, but he's beginning to learn it now, will know why I'm about to thank the next group of people, because there's one group of people that spends more time with me that are state employees than anybody else and they have a serious charge and worked very, very hard.  I'd like to thank all the members of the state police detail who have been with me for the past eleven and a half years.  Please rise, past and present, thank you very much.  [applause].

I have two more thank yous.  The first is, that I would be remiss if I did not thank a man who's given a great deal of his career to the people of this state, who's a committed idealist, a hard-working person, someone to who I owe a great deal and I think to every person in this state owes a great deal, I would like to ask Lieutenant Governor Doug Racine to stand and be recognized and thanked.  [applause].

And lastly, the most important thank you, this is a thank you to the people of the state of Vermont.  You have sustained me and supported me through some very difficult times and some very wonderful times; you have allowed me to be in the greatest job in the state of Vermont longer than anybody else in 200 years.  I can't tell you how grateful I am.  Many of the ideas that we have put forward and that you have passed have come from you.  They come from conversations in general stores, in hockey rinks; they come from conversations on Main Streets.

Every year after the legislature closed, I used to go on a tour of Vermont, election year or no election year.   And over that next month or two, I just listened to ordinary Vermonters telling me their stories, telling me their hopes, telling me their dreams, telling me their sorrows, and out of that would come most of the legislative agenda for the following year.

This is the people's house, and I have been very, very proud to be able to start my government service in this house, and I'm very, very grateful for the people of this state who allowed me to stay here for 20 years.  I deeply thank the voters and the people of this state.  [applause].

The exercise that we begin today with the election of officers and tomorrow with the election of the governor is an extraordinary process which is a relatively new process in human history--the peaceful transfer of power between two unrelated individuals and in this case between different parties.  We are extraordinarily lucky to live in a country where this exists and we too often take it for granted.

In Vermont it is a particularly extraordinary ritual because of the extraordinary state that Vermont is.  We are in many ways unique.  We have a citizen legislature.  We have growing diversity.  We have a sense of community that many other states never have except when tragedy strikes, and yet we have it every day.

And I ask you to remember as you continue in your public careers in Vermont how lucky we are.  How lucky we are that we live in a state where you can have a big argument with somebody at town meeting over the school budget and three days later if their barn burns down, you're there with a covered dish.  We live in an extraordinary society because we deeply value each other as human beings.

I think that Vermont is the way that America ought to be.  America would be a stronger country if we valued each other as human beings more.  America would be a stronger country if we admitted that we were dependent on each other and that we were responsible for each other and that we were connected to each other; every human being whether we like them or not that we are connected to and that we have an obligation to as fellow Americans and as fellow human beings.

I have been so proud and so privileged and so honored to serve as governor of this state where at our core belief in who we are, we believe that.  Whether we are Republicans or whether we are Democrats or whether we are Progressives or whether we are Independents, we believe that.  And there are friendships that you will make in this body and beyond as your careers prosper that will remind you every day, that it is important who somebody is, not what they are.

We can set an example for the rest of this country, because these are values that used to be very American and we're starting to lose them.

As the middle class gets more and more pressed by a more and more global society and a more and more difficult society economically, what I have tried to do in Vermont, above all, is to build what I call a middle class safety net so that two wage earners in a family, who often may hold three jobs, working hard to make ends meet, may someday hope that their kids will be able to go to college just as we were.

This is the first generation that we are facing where it's more difficult for parents to pay for college than it was for my parents' generation and we can do better.

And you have, in this room, over the last 20 years that I have served, made sure that that is fixed in Vermont with your generous support of higher education, your generous insistence [in ?that] support of VESA [phon.] Act.  This is a legislature with a heart, and I mean that about all legislators, Republican, Democrat, Independent and Progressive.  Because I know; I tried to push back in the budget and it didn't matter who was in control [laughter]; you still wanted to support all those programs.  But I salute you for that.

I do want you to be fiscally conservative.  I think Jim will be fiscally conservative.  I want him to succeed, and I want you to pay attention to what he says [laughter].

But I am proud in a way, although we had fights about the budget and how much money we were spending, I am proud because what was in your hearts at those times was supporting the people who sent you here.  A recognition of how tough it is to make a living, of how difficult the circumstances can be to send kids to college and to hope that your kids do better than you did.

That's not the case everywhere in America.  There are an awful lot of legislators that forget who sent them here, an awful lot of people in government who have fogotten how tough it is to make a living.  And as long as Vermont believes in the values that you hold today, strong rural values of community, where we truly believe that all of us are responsible to each other and all of us are responsible for each other, this state will continue to be a great and wonderful state and my job, that I've had for the last eleven and a half years, will continue to be the greatest job in Vermont.

Thank you very, very much.  [applause].

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Transcript Copyright © 2003  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.