Full Written Speech: Gov. Tony Evers’ second inaugural speech

On Tuesday, Gov. Tony Evers was sworn in for a second term as 46th Governor of Wisconsin. Gov. Evers highlighted many agenda issues, including legalizing marijuana and abortions, and expanding Medicaid coverage. Here is Gov. Evers full address:

Good afternoon, Wisconsin!

Honorable Supreme Court Justices, Tribal Nation leaders, constitutional officers, Maj. Gen. Knapp, members of the Wisconsin National Guard and active and retired members of our armed forces, cabinet members, Sen. President Kapenga, Majority Leader LeMahieu, Minority Leader Agard, Speaker Vos, and Minority Leader Neubauer, legislators, distinguished guests, and, most importantly, Wisconsinites here from near, far, and those watching from home, welcome, and thank you for joining us.

I want to begin by congratulating the folks behind me who also took their oaths of office today. I look forward to serving together with you these next few years.

I also want to recognize constitutional officers who are leaving office today—State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes. Thank you both for bringing your energy, your wit, and your passion to our work together over the past four years.

I’m Tony Evers, and, yes, I am jazzed as hell today to be sworn in again as the 46th governor of the great state of Wisconsin.

As jazzed as I am today, I am also humbled.

I’m standing here as a born-and-raised Wisconsinite who grew up as a scrawny kid with glasses raising cane in Plymouth; who, as I was painting fences in Sheboygan County, wouldn’t have predicted that this is where I’d end up; who had no idea I’d marry my high school sweetheart, Kathy, and spend the next fifty years loving her and raising three kids and nine grandkids together; who never dreamed I’d take an oath to be the governor of the state that made me who I am, much less that I’d have the opportunity to do it twice.

So, I am humbled. And just as I did four years ago, I stand here again today with a grateful heart—for your trust, for your faith, and for your confidence. Thank you.

To take the oath as governor—an oath only 45 people have taken before me—is an extraordinary privilege. And not just because a so-called ‘boring’ former science teacher managed to end up here, but because each time this oath is taken is a profound display of democracy. One much like the fundamental right to cast a ballot; like the right to have fair and secure elections, free from interference by politicians; like the fidelity to each other to willfully return borrowed power when it’s no longer ours to bear; and much like the responsibility to serve with the grace and humility of recognizing not one of us alone can accomplish all we aim to achieve on our own.

Today represents a defining feature and an extraordinary expression of what makes our state and our country great: that the functions of democracy are derived not from any one person, any one office, or any one party, but from all of us, together. And today is an extraordinary reminder that these functions exist because they are manifested by our collective ability to will them to continue.

And, together, on November 8th, that’s exactly what Wisconsinites chose to do.

This past November, Wisconsin rejected a trajectory bent toward permanently undermining the tenets and institutions that are fundamental to who we are as a people. Wisconsin rejected a rhetoric born out of apathy and animosity toward our neighbors. And Wisconsin rejected a return to the bitter politics of resentment.

Given the opportunity to abandon the virtues that define us, Wisconsinites chose to embrace a better history. Given the opportunity to retreat into division and doubt, Wisconsinites chose a future of unity and faith. Given the opportunity to further enable cynicism and hate, Wisconsinites chose kindness and they chose hope instead.

People voted because they believe, as I do, that we should fully fund our public schools, keep class sizes small, invest in kids’ mental health, and retain and build upon our talented education workforce. Because they know that when we do what’s best for our kids, we do what’s best for our state.

People voted—especially our young people, and you heard it from my grandaughter—because they believe, as I do, that science is real, that climate change is real. And they are demanding that we stop pretending that we can’t create good-paying jobs and build sustainable infrastructure while conserving our natural resources—because they deserve a future where we can do both.

People voted because they believe, as I do, that when we deliver tax relief, it should be targeted to the middle class to give working families a little breathing room in their family budget, not to give big breaks to millionaires and billionaires who don’t need the extra help to afford rising costs.

People voted because they believe, as I do, that we should expand BadgerCare and work to ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable healthcare. Because it’s 2023, and they believe we shouldn’t be beholden to a law from the 1800s passed well before women had the right to vote. Because they believe people should have the freedom to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions without needing permission from politicians.

Now, I am not naïve enough to believe that 100 percent of the people who cast their ballot in November agree with me on every issue—that’s probably generous. Depending on the issue, it’s probably closer to only 60, 70, 80 percent or so, based on the latest Marquette Poll.

But I also know that not everyone who voted this past November agrees with me all the time, or belongs to the same party I do, or shares my same core values and beliefs. I know there are those who chose to cast their ballot this past November feeling the weight of a republic on the brink.

And Wisconsinites of every background, identity, and creed went into that ballot box believing that, together, we could correct that course, and on November 8th, they might’ve cast their ballot for me, but they cast their ballot for democracy, too.

And in so doing, Wisconsinites reaffirmed that our duty and allegiance, first and foremost, is not to our own interests, but to each other—resolved to the common good that binds us, vehement about the values that unite us, and steadfast to the ideals that transcend us.

So, as we are here today to take an oath to support the constitutions of our country and our state, promising to faithfully discharge our duties to the best of our ability, we have work ahead of us to not only protect these basic functions, but to forge forward, together.

And that hard work begins here today.

Not one of us alone can undo the damage that’s been caused to our democracy. Not one of us alone can mend the seams of this fraying fabric. Not one of us alone can restore trust in a system that has served our country for centuries. But together we can. And together we will.

No one person alone can retain or recruit all of the educators we need to keep our class sizes small. Or get each of our kids the support they need to get caught up after the pandemic. Or to fully fund our schools so they have the resources to improve outcomes and prepare our kids for the future. But together we will.

We need generational, transformative improvements as to how we invest in our local communities and keep them safe—and to ensure they can respond to basic and unique needs alike. So, let’s keep working together on a plan. Because while one person alone cannot right the disinvestment local communities have seen over the last decade, together we will.

We all know the challenges that have plagued our state’s workforce for a decade. Wisconsin must be able to compete to bring more talented workers to our state, most especially to address our healthcare workforce shortage.

So, we have to keep investing in good roads and infrastructure, good schools, and good healthcare. And together we will.

But we also have to expand access to affordable housing in our rural and urban areas alike. We must expand job training and apprenticeship programs in innovative industries and technologies. We must invest in public transit and transportation alternatives. Together we will.

And if we want to make sure we can compete for talented workers and businesses against other states, then we ought to start by making sure that when workers and businesses look at relocating to Wisconsin, part of that calculus doesn’t include themselves, their loved ones, or their workers being stripped of their reproductive freedom just for moving here.

We must restore the freedoms that Wisconsinites had until June 23, 2022, the day before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. And I believe that together we will.

We must ensure that every Wisconsinite has access to clean, safe water—no matter whether it’s for drinking in our homes and schools, for our crops or livestock, or our natural waters for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation. And that means urgently addressing PFAS and lead and nitrates and getting those contaminants out of our water. Together we will.

And we also know that if we do not close the digital divide, Wisconsinites will be left behind, so we must ensure that every kid, every family, every business, and every hospital, can get connected to affordable, reliable high-speed internet. Together we will.

And, yes, we must make quality childcare and early childhood education more affordable and accessible. Yes, we must lower the cost of medication and cap the cost of insulin. Yes, we must have a meaningful conversation about treating marijuana much like we do alcohol. But we can’t do it alone—together we will.

Our state and our country’s histories are punctuated by moments just like this one—moments where we have the chance to do the right thing—not for ourselves—but for each other.

There’s no question that the work we must do to build the future we want for our kids, our grandkids, and our state is only possible if we’re willing to do it together. And I believe that together we will.

Wisconsin, we love you. Let’s polka tonight and get to work tomorrow.

Thank you, and On, Wisconsin!