Good Morning, it is an honor to be here, and once again, gather beneath the golden dome of our democracy.
While in many ways it is just a building, not unlike the countless others across our nation’s capitals, we are reminded of its symbolic significance and the sacrifice necessary to keep it standing.
Our forefathers once dreamt of places like this one.
Trapped under the heel of totalitarian rule, they imagined a day when buildings would be erected to foster great debate of free people.
They envisioned a nation where the limited circumstances of your birth would not dictate the magnitude of your destiny.
And now, some 250 years later, we are reminded that the liberty we hold dear is still in need of safeguarding.
Democracy and freedom may be the foundation of our country’s inception but they are not indestructible, they are not a guarantee.
It takes ALL of us, every–single–day, striving to live up to the transcendent ideals of our republic, in order to keep it.
This task has been handed down through the generations - in war times and in peace, in recession and in prosperity, in devastation and in growth.
Despite struggles or ease, this body is responsible for reaching beyond the hardships of our present moment towards a future of greater opportunity.
We begin the 73rd General Assembly not as we hoped a year ago. Weathered by storms, we are a different body, a different state, a different nation than we once were.
We are all sobered by the losses we have faced, and yet our devotion and commitment to the immense task before us remains unaltered.
I want to thank you all for the dedication you have shown during this harrowing time. Without the resilience of your resolve, our state would not be experiencing the improvements we are seeing today.
I especially want to thank the Majority Leader, the Minority Leader, and each of you for your partnership and collaboration in navigating one of the most tumultuous legislative years to date.
More importantly, I would like to take a moment to thank our frontline workers and community heroes who have braved this storm unflinchingly.
Battered by the relentless winds and torrential rains of this pandemic, nurses, doctors, emergency responders... teachers, grocery clerks, sanitation teams... postal workers, daycare providers, and elderly caregivers have selflessly served OUR community and country during one of the most heartbreaking times in our history – putting the wellbeing of others before their own and pressed forward even in the darkest of hours.
Your courage, sacrifice, and selfless devotion will be remembered long after the murals of you – painted on city walls all across this country – fade with time.
Because the virtuous compassion of your contribution inspired a nation- when all hope seemed lost. It is what reminded us of our greater connectedness and gave us hope for the future.
Hope, that in many ways, can be hard to come by. For a crisis has borne down on us with unrelenting force and has persisted, to this very day, to tear apart our economy, upend our lives, and rob us of our loved ones.
Meanwhile, a different battle has raged on another front, one of violence, division, and hatred. We are war-torn, not by the hands of a foreign adversary, but by the malice grown from within.
Brother turned against brother, we have walked the treacherous tightrope over ultimate destruction – reminded once again of the dire consequences of a nation divided.
While political tribalism is nothing new, the mechanism in which it is grown has become all too pervasive. With the click of a button, we can enter a world that confirms our worst fears and breeds bitter bias. We sit in echo chambers created by companies that magnify our differences and profit from our fear.
And somehow in the mess of it all, some leaders in government have decided that fanning the flames of hatred is more politically viable than standing up for what is right, good, and true.
This selfish allegiance to political expediency, though newly inflated, has been around for generations, creating a system that props up the wealthy and penalizes the poor, an economy that siphons hard work by the many to create power for the few...
So let us be clear, our road to recovery and reconciliation is littered with daunting challenges. Challenges that will not be solved painlessly or mastered overnight. And yet, with a persistent and steady determination, they will be overcome...
Today, we gather to recommit ourselves to this task.
We come ready and willing to not just recover from this pandemic and the civil discord that has gripped our nation – but build back a stronger, more just Colorado...
A Colorado that upholds the principles of freedom, equity, and opportunity.
A Colorado that dares to carry on our great tradition of bold leadership – because at our core we are pioneers – frontiersmen – the legacy of a daring few who braved the unknown in search of a brighter future.
But it is no longer the rugged terrain that begs to be bested, it is the frontline of social, political, and environmental progress.
Like the wilderness of the west, this pursuit is not for the timid. For it requires a visionary’s creativity – a sage’s wisdom – and a trailblazer’s courage.
It asks us to toil until our backs ache; to dig deep; to reach high; to heal wounds and repair breaks. It asks us to remember that we are greater together than apart.
Every generation has had their hill to climb – this is ours.
We stand at the foot of a monstrous recovery mission, but before weariness weighs down our feet, we must remember how far we’ve come.
With finite funds, we were able to join together and work across the aisle to deliver results for our state – passing meaningful legislation to address child care shortages, utility costs, and food insecurity.
We prioritized struggling Coloradans and small businesses by allocating millions in historic housing relief and rescue grants.
We protected workers from retaliation, ensured employers offered paid sick leave, and expanded access to unemployment insurance, in a time when so many have lost their jobs.
We revised unfair tax policies that overburdened hardworking families and shielded powerful corporations.
And we passed the most ambitious policy proposal addressing police violence in the country.
But our work is far from over. We are still in the midst of a crisis.
Over five thousand Coloradans have died from COVID-19 and hundreds more are currently hospitalized.
Too many people are still out of work and facing inconsistent and inadequate unemployment support.
Too many children go to bed hungry. Too many families face eviction. Too many businesses contemplate closure.
We must stop the bleeding. We must urgently respond to the needs of our state: rescuing Main Street from financial ruin, providing relief to anxious tenants in need of next month’s rent, replenishing community resources that serve the weary and jobless.
We must help schools reopen and address the mental health burdens of our residents.
We must bolster vaccine distribution and ensure every Coloradan has access to this life-saving protection.
We must. And We Will.
Because resilience is the path that promises reward. A path that is not a stranger to us but rather covered with our footprints…
For there have been many times in our history when we could have given up, when we could have turned on each other forever. But instead, we found it in ourselves to not only press on, but offer a hand, understanding that we rise and fall as one.
Like the trials of previous generations, this pandemic has and will make us stronger, but it will also make us more connected, more human. Not because such a conclusion is a given but because we can choose to alchemize pain into purpose.
This last year may have been defined by darkness and loss, but what was often missed was the quiet comradery and kindness felt between each other: a college student delivering groceries to an elderly neighbor, a factory worker cutting their own hours to keep a colleague from losing their job, a husband serenading his wife outside her hospital window.
Pain certainly has the power to drive us apart. But it also has the power to bring us together.
So where some see only devastation, we will see an opportunity for compassion, for the forging of tighter bonds. Because we direct our own destiny and write our own story.
We will turn the page of this disaster to one of replenishment and renewal.
We will eliminate the threat of this virus, returning to our loved ones and embracing our community.
We will revitalize our economy, creating jobs and planting seeds for new growth.
We will restore our community pillars – strengthening our schools and supporting our kids...
But this journey is not only about restoration. It is about reimagination.
From the ashes, we are presented with a precious gift. A gift of rebirth. An opportunity for transformation.
It is still ours to receive or reject.
We must choose.
Will we simply rebuild the structures that stood before?
Or will we remake our future – right-ing the wrongs of the past and fulfilling the promises of our predecessors?
I believe we will choose the latter.
For from the fire is born, fertile soil.
We will use this devastation to re-envision a community built on stronger ground.
We will redesign a system that protects justice for ALL – confronting the stain of systemic racism and bringing equity to the dark corners of our institutions.
We will rescue the planet we put in peril – utilizing clean energy to create jobs and rid our skies of toxic pollution.
We will build a health care system that is people-focused rather than profit-hungry and ensure that EVERYONE, no matter their socioeconomic status, has access to the medicine they need.
Now there are those that scoff at the breadth of our plans and the hope in our hearts. They roll their eyes at our ambitions and recite the same tired lines of disbelief.
But they forget, the shoulders we stand on today were once just dreams of a generation before us. 100 years ago women were not allowed the right to vote, 60 years ago our country was racially segregated, 20 years ago utility-scale solar farms didn’t exist, 6 years ago gay marriage was prohibited, and until this year, no woman had ever held national executive office…
Don’t tell me things can’t change. Despite all of our faults and failings, we have made progress. People have chosen, CHOSEN to press forward, believing against all odds that our journey has an upward trajectory.
There is nothing different today about the choices WE face. We cannot let cynicism harden our hearts and limit our imaginations. Because we are charged with shepherding our communities through this crisis – and we cannot derail our aspirations, but rather we must hold fast to greater possibilities.
Following the Great Depression, Social Security was born. After WWII came the GI Bill.
Crises have the potential to be springboards if we let them.
But this does require us to put down our arms and find commonality.
So let’s not just talk about unity and healing... let’s demonstrate it – with every word, with every action.
Let’s remember that the distance between us- appears wider than it really is.
For justice, dignity, integrity, freedom, and opportunity, are NOT party values, they are American values. And while we may fail to reach them at times... our collective pursuit and dedication to their summit is what makes America a beacon to the world.
And WITHIN that beacon burns...the bright light of Colorado, where we prove, time and time again our ingenuity and strength.
Where we step forward to herald a new dawn when no one else sees the light.
So... though our hurdles loom large and our resources remain small, there is no limit to what we can achieve this session.
We have already come so far, let us not forget in the eleventh hour that we are indivisibly bound.
It is the illusion of separateness that clouds our judgment and pits us against one another. And yet it is our’s individually to remove.
And in so doing, let us begin again...
Much like that fateful spring day, still marred by winter, on which our towering forefather spoke to a fractured nation. After so much bloodshed. After so much pain, he took to the podium to proclaim:
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right... let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle...to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace.”
Today is the day that we reaffirm our commitment, gather our strength, and continue the work of rebuilding our great state.