Remarks of President pro Tempore Kevin de León at Opening of the 2015-2016 Regular Session of the California State Senate

Monday, December 01, 2014

Hello my fellow Californians, it is great being with each and every one of you here on this special day.

Today marks a new chapter for all of us to work together and get things done for the people of California.

This legislative body leads the nation time and time again in enacting policies that are important to all Americans.

What we do here matters and I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished together.

It is an honor to serve as your President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate.

I thank you for this humbling opportunity.

•••••

What does the Latin word Pro Tempore mean? The meaning might represent one of the most populist and democratic ideas I can think of.

Pro Tempore means ‘of the moment.’  It’s a title that says, “the individual leader is fleeting, but the institution lives on.”

It instills us with a sense of both urgency and humility.

Whether you have 2, 4, 8 or 12 years, in a sense, we are all Senators of the moment.  

We are temporary. 

The voters gave us the honor to serve them and that is whom we are accountable to.

This job comes with an expiration date, and that is the way a democracy should be.

This building, the Senate Chambers and red carpet belong to the people of the state of California and they have given us a long to-do list to take care of while we’re here.

We must fix our education system so that every kid can attend a great school in their neighborhood and afford to go to college in their own state. 

Because it costs more to incarcerate a prisoner than to educate a child, education is the most important investment we can make for our future.

We must create a business environment where those who work hard can provide for their family.

We must continue on our path toward long-term fiscal stability – and make sure we don’t go back to the days of boom-and-bust budgeting.

The problems we face are many, and they are all related to each other. 

•      Public safety is a necessary precondition for investment, jobs and learning. 

•      Environmental protection and advanced public transportation are essential for our quality of life and productivity.

•      Improved human relationships and respect for cultural diversity are the vital moral foundation for a free, just and creative society. 

None of these crucial goals can be achieved if we ignore any of them.

••••

The message I have for you all today is that the stakes are too high for us not to get this right.

I grew up in a neighborhood that is living proof of what happens when we get it wrong.

What happens when public policy lets a neighborhood, a community, a people fail.

Many of the kids I grew up with ended up on drugs, in gangs, in prison or dead. 

I would not be here today if it were not for the hard work and dedication of my mother—a single immigrant woman with 3 children.

The fact that I made it out to accomplish bigger things shouldn’t be the exception – it should be the rule.

There is nothing exceptional about me. 

What IS exceptional are the policies that were vigorously debated under this Capitol dome on this very Senate floor that gave me—as well as others here today—the opportunity to succeed.

I am living proof that the work we do here matters. The work we do here can secure the ladder of opportunity for all of our children, no matter where they come from.

••••

Now, we just finished a very competitive election cycle and today is the day we stop being politicians and officially become Senators.

No more polls, no more rhetoric – it’s time for us to deliver results for the communities and neighborhoods that sent us here. 

Now that we have been sworn in, good governance is no longer just a matter of opinion—it’s now our job to make sure our institutions function well.

It can no longer just be a talking point that we need to have the best schools in the world.

Our kids only get one shot at a good education and it’s our duty to make that happen for them.

It can no longer just be a belief that if a person works hard and plays by the rules they should be able to provide for their family.

It’s our job now to make that a reality.

Partisanship, on both sides, won’t give our neighborhoods more green parks. 

Partisanship won’t provide our children with clean air or water. And campaign money won’t keep our neighborhoods safe.

Debate and dissent are good. In fact, better ideas come out of heated debates.

But we must always do so coming from a place where we understand that every one of us has good intentions.

Every one of us wants California to have a dynamic economy where residents can get a job and also pursue their dreams.

Every one of us wants to ensure that there’s a fantastic teacher in every classroom.

Some of us may disagree on how the state should function, but none of us disagree on whether it should function.

So today, we will refocus our efforts on truly what it means to be an elected delegate of the people of California.

Whether it’s the first time you serve, or you are a seasoned veteran, today we renew a contract with the neighborhoods and communities we represent.

The people of California have placed their trust in us.

Now it’s time to earn it.

We don’t get to serve forever.  We are, ALL of us, Tempores, “of the moment” and, colleagues our clock starts now.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the California dream.