Oath of Office Address
Who are we as a people and how ought we to live?
Marcus J. Molinaro
December 29, 2011
(Thank you Marist College and President Dennis Murray for assisting us.)
Looking out today at the sea of faces of my friends, family and supporters is humbling and inspiring.
Every day I look into the eyes of my daughter, here with me today, and see the wonderment of a child, the innocence and curiosity of the future and that continually propels me forward to do my best for her and for those who have now placed this important trust in my hands....
Having taken that oath on fifteen separate occasions, its significance has never diminished. Doing so, with Abigail, reminds me, and I trust all of us, that so much relies on how we treat one another and how we answer the important questions of our lives:
Who are we as people and how do we hope to live?
In his powerful commencement address to Oglethorpe University, Franklin Roosevelt, a man who helped this nation address those two questions, the man whose home we were to visit today; a citizen of the Hudson Valley, a son of Dutchess County – challenged the American People and leaders throughout our land to not "confuse objectives with methods. Too many so-called leaders," he said, "fail to see the forest because of the trees. Too many of them fail to recognize the vital necessity of planning for definite objectives. True leadership calls for the setting forth of the objectives and the rallying of public opinion in support…"
"The country needs…," he went on to add, "… the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all else try something."
Who are we as people and how do we hope to live?
Two questions, as profound as they are simple. The answers, however, define how we, together, will confront the many challenges facing all of us during these days of opportunity.
We come together, though, in the shadow of a national economic recession. Joblessness is too high, hopelessness too rampant and political strife and posturing has caused the paralysis of our national government. Too many feel the very institutions of our economy and of our democracy are bloated, broken, arrogant, careless and lack concern for the people they are to serve.
Here in Dutchess County, just last month, 41,000 individuals sought some form of social service assistance and last year nearly 20,000 received care from our county’s mental health professionals.
Today, 9,700 of our neighbors are without work. Nearly 8,000 small business owners worry about making payroll or wonder if they’ll remain open come the new year. Over 170,000 Dutchess County acres are being farmed despite enormous obstacles. Countless senior citizens and families are making too many tough choices in order to pay their taxes or keep current on their mortgage.
So, in the face of this difficulty, those two simple questions are most definitely profound. The difficulty facing us is not the story of our future. Dutchess County is blessed with individuals whose passion is evident in their service to a greater purpose.
Today, thousands of compassionate givers donate their time and talent to improve the life of our community and lives of those who call it home; volunteer and career emergency responders and law enforcement officials stand ready to keep our families and communities safe. Many of our very own sons and daughters remain in harm’s way serving our nation across the globe as we pray for their safe return.
Today, twenty-five county legislators, twenty town supervisors, eight village and two city mayors plan for the challenge of providing vital services with limited resources.
Today, a thirty-six year old man stands before you, grateful, honored and humbled by your support and presence. Placing my hand on a Bible and reciting an oath that makes real the responsibility you have conferred, knowing we, together, owe those Dutchess County families and citizens earnest, honest and enthusiastic service.
There are, ladies and gentlemen, important challenges whose critical mass demands immediate concern and diligent address. So, as we attempt to answer those questions, we will, by molding consensus and leading collaboratively, do as Roosevelt implored: identify clear and concise objectives, engage our community and rally support.
By partnering with our municipal and business leaders we must re-energize our economic development efforts, continue revitalizing our regional economy, streamlining our regulatory processes and help grow private sector jobs and growth opportunities for new and existing businesses.
To insure we are not outmoded or outdated by the challenges of our day, we will review and evaluate the very structures of local government, relying on those from within and gathering new perspectives from without. We will identify new efficiencies, new savings and new partnerships to make government smaller, smarter and successful.
Our national economic condition, along with specific challenges facing too many in this region, demands we address the frightening escalation of domestic violence, child abuse and neighborhood crimes. We will reorganize the way we provide mental health services; we will confront overcrowding in our county jail facility and, we will do these things with acute focus, compassion and intelligence.
Our county’s delicate and vital natural resources may only be matched by its rich and vibrant history. Requiring not only the preservation of our shared quality of life, but setting new standards for recycling and reuse of waste, continuing resource conservation measures, and improving and regionalizing land use policies. By advancing our tourism promotion efforts, we will harness the unique opportunity presented by the phenomenally successful Walkway Over the Hudson, embrace our robust arts and cultural community, and celebrate every landmark, historic hamlet, village and city center, productive farm and critical environmental area.
And, that ladies and gentlemen is who we are and how we expect to govern.
Of course, we do not start from scratch. This county has led our state and nation in so many ways and while today, the elected officials you see before you – legislators, supervisors and mayors, our judiciary, and my partners in service: Sheriff Anderson, District Attorney Grady, Comptroller Coughlin and County Clerk Kendall, begin to write the next chapter in our county’s history, for the past twenty years, County Executive Bill Steinhaus penned the pages of the history we learn from and build upon. For that, and to you, Bill, we extend our thanks and appreciation.
Just as he offered in his comments before the County Legislature a week ago, I commend to all of you and to the countless residents who have and continue in service to this community – our successes are not the product of a single individual nor can be our vision for the future.
Every good idea, winning initiative or successful policy is the product of our hard work. Every accomplishment shall be the marker of our success, the monuments of our achievement. And that is who we are, and how we ought to lead.
The Psalmist writes, of King David, "…he led them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them." It might appear a bit lofty to aspire to that kind of leadership, but it seems to me, the message is timely and compelling.
Some believe that present circumstances require we change who we are. Some think we bunker ourselves down and seek to merely weather the storm. Still others, content in thinking American democracy just won’t work again, don’t believe in our ability to overcome these new difficulties.
I do not subscribe to any of these.
With faith and firm resolve, I believe we cannot compromise our character nor hide from the challenges of our day. I know this community well, and I believe in our capacity to solve any problem and overcome any challenge. I know we have the ability to define the future of our county, inspire the best in us, and without doubt, reinvent democracy – and, that is how we expect to lead.
For the past five years I have attempted to represent the people of Dutchess and Columbia Counties well in the New York State Assembly. Working with officials on both sides of the aisle, I often joked that the best part of going to Albany was coming home again. Well, I am home again.
Home: where for six years I served with many of you as a member of the County Legislature. And home, where for 4,273 days, I went to work at the Historic Watts dePeyster Hall in the Village of Tivoli to do the work the residents asked of me. The memory of beginning my tenure as a nineteen year old mayor, and the overwhelming encouragement I received from so many is still so very vivid in my mind.
The thoughts of those first days may be slightly overshadowed by your generosity, friendship and support today. The opportunity you have granted and honor you bestow lifts my spirits, sobers my mind and provides unyielding inspiration to serve you well.
We don’t know all the passages in this next chapter for our county, I hope, though, it might be reflected that during our service together, Dutchess is proud, inspired and hopeful. May we never find ourselves on the front page for an act of disrespectful discourse. Let us never place the interests of one ahead of the needs of us all. Partisanship and personal attacks have no place in our dialogue or debate. Good ideas and great volunteers will always be embraced regardless of their length of residency, individual background or party affiliation.
There is no room nor any place for anything less in our county. And, that is how we should serve one another.
There is work to be done with a great deal at stake. We have much to be thankful for, yet so much more to accomplish. As we seek answers to those questions of who we are and how we hope to live, and define the next chapter in our shared future, may God bless those in service to our community. May He protect those who sacrifice to provide for our safety and security here at home and abroad. And, with fondness for the past, courage in the present and hope for the future, may God bless each of us and may He bless all of Dutchess County and the United States of America.