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St. Paul, Minn. — A few weeks after I was born, a young president stood in the bright sunshine of a Washington January afternoon and he said these words:
"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans."
Today, a new generation of Minnesotans accepts the torch of leadership. Through the grace of God and the diligence of our people we'll accomplish what each generation, in turn, has strived to accomplish: to carry the torch higher, further and more boldly.
We begin the challenge ever mindful of the sacrifices made by the generations that came before us. We stand on their shoulders and we thank them.
A few years ago, Tom Brokaw wrote the book The Greatest Generation. It's the story of my parents' generation.
A few decades ago, my mom died. A few years ago, my dad died. A few days ago, my father in-law passed away. The circle of life is soon going to be complete for that generation.
As the torch is passed from my parents' generation to mine and soon to the next, it's our duty to pass on their story and their principles.
Many parents and others in that generation grew up in the depression. As young adults, they went off to fight world wars, and they literally kept the world free.
They came back from the wars and built much of the infrastructure of this country, schools and highways and freeways and technology that we're still benefiting from today.
They faced enormous challenges, challenges that make our state budget worries of today seem minor.
They didn't flinch. They didn't complain. They didn't blame someone else. They worked hard and they faced their problems head on.
They also made enormous - enormous - sacrifices. They did it because, like the generations before them, they knew this fundamental truth:
America is not great because we are smarter than the rest of the world. America is great because average people, like you and me, have enjoyed more freedoms and more liberties than any people that have ever lived.
That spirit, that spirit is alive and well in our great home state. Our leaders have personified that spirit time and time again.
Most recently, we've been served by Governor Ventura. He led with great boldness and he spoke from his heart. Please join me again in thanking Governor Ventura and first lady Terry Ventura for their service to Minnesota.
Minnesota is not defined by boundaries on a map, but by our beautiful, bountiful land, our indomitable people and a tremendous spirit of innovation that is the "Minnesota Way."
Today we celebrate all that we are and all that we have been as a state as we prepare ourselves for the daunting challenges that lie ahead.
We're blessed with 54 million acres of softly rolling plains, thick pine forests, rugged river bluffs and placid lakes disturbed only by the call of the loon and a few water skis, Governor Ventura, I think a few jet skis, on some of the lakes, on some of the lakes.
From the solitude and freedom of our wide-open spaces, to productive farm fields to our bustling cities and communities, we're a great state made even greater by our people.
Like the coming spring, new Minnesotans continue to arrive, providing an ever-renewing pulse of energy.
From Native Americans, to the French, the Germans and the Slovaks, from the Scandinavians and the Irish, to the African-Americans, the children of Asia and Latin America and East Africa and other places all are welcome here, and all share in our responsibility for the future.
God us each freedom and nearly limitless opportunity. These gifts have been the foundation for a spirit of innovation unmatched in all the world.
Minnesota is great because we build great progress out of great challenges.
We always have and we always will.
The people of Rochester suffered a devastating tornado. The solution was to create what became the Mayo Clinic.
Decades ago, thousands here and around the world suffered from the crippling effects of polio. The Minnesota solution was the Sister Kenny Institute and later what became Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
In Little Falls, a kid who felt isolated and hemmed in found the courage and the know-how to be the first person to fly an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean.
Twenty years ago we had too much corn and too much air pollution. The Minnesota solution was ethanol.
Our winters are too long and sometimes we didn't have enough to do. The Minnesota solution was to build snowmobiles.
Our houses in the winter were too cold or too hot, so Minnesotans invented the thermostat.
Years ago, a bad heart too often meant the end of life. Minnesotans invented cardiac pacemakers and implantable defibrillators.
Iron ore in the Mesabi and Vermillion Ranges helped win two world wars. When those deposits were depleted, Minnesotans perfected new methods to mine and process taconite that kept a vital industry alive.
When people were starving in India, U-trained scientists invented new hybrids that started the Green Revolution for that country and elsewhere.
And when the city of St. Paul was dying, Norm Coleman, Arne Carlson, Bob Naegle and our Minnesota friends created the Minnesota Wild.
I could go on, talking about scotch tape and water skis and post-it notes, Sears and Roebuck, the Pillsbury doughboy, Greyhound Bus Lines, Meals on Wheels, the group medical practice and even our beloved Spam. But since my microphone went out I guess can't go on, but you get the point.
Minnesota has made the world a much better place because the world gives us problems and we give it progress.
So when people say to me, "Why do you want to be governor with so many troubling and difficult times ahead?" my answer is simple.
I know Minnesota, and I know there is great progress just over the horizon. Great challenges bring great progress in Minnesota and Minnesota will once again rise to the occasion.
Government is not the problem. I am not anti-government. I am anti-lousy results.
Government is also not the answer. Leadership is. Leadership that rests in the hearts and minds of thousands of Minnesotans.
My job isn't to tell Minnesotans what to do or how to do it.
My job is to challenge you to lead in your homes, to lead in your communities, to lead in your places of worship, to lead in your workplace, to lead at our places of charity and volunteerism and, yes, to challenge you to lead even here in the capital city of St. Paul.
My job is to believe in Minnesota and our people and to harvest the genius, innovation, and amazing resourcefulness that have always made Minnesota great and will again.
How do we give our children the best education in the world? By tapping into the power and ideas of parents and educators who know best.
How do we create jobs and prosperity for all Minnesotans? By tapping into the power and ideas of employers and workers who are the unyielding economic engine of growth and opportunity.
How do we revitalize small towns? By using new ways of thinking and tapping into the power and ideas of folks who live there and have a stake in maintaining this great way of life.
Many of the problems we have in Minnesota today didn't arrive in the last year. And they're not going to be solved in the next year.
We know there's no short-term fix to our fundamental challenges that we face.
For all our major concerns education, transportation, health care and many others my goal is to draw the best out of Minnesotans.
The key to each solution will be your involvement in it and the new ways we find to solve problems.
In a hundred places and a thousand ways, change must come and it will come. My job is not to impose it upon you from above, but draw it from you by casting a vision, fostering hope, and stirring our passion for innovation.
It's not a single torch that passes today. It's a light that passes from candle to candle until we have lit our whole wonderful state with hope and opportunity, and a new vision.
With pride in our heritage and hope for a future well beyond us today, let us do the work entrusted to us and carry the torch of the future higher, more boldly and further than ever before, all of us, together, as Minnesotans.
Thank you. May God bless you and may God bless the great State of Minnesota.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)