Remarks by Senate Leader de León at the Opening of the 2017-2018 Legislative Session

Monday, December 05, 2016

As prepared for delivery

Friends, families, fellow Californians:

Once again, it’s one of life’s greatest honors to stand before you as the son of a single immigrant mother, now the President of our nation’s finest legislative body.  

Of course, the power within this chamber has never come from one individual – or even 40.  It’s about the 39 million lives outside this building.  Those who live, work and raise families, striving for a safe, healthy, hopeful future -- in a state admired around the world for inventing the future.

We represent them.  More importantly, we reflect them. The diversity of this body – age, race, gender, background, bilingualism -- whether your last name is “Wilk” or something with a few more syllables – like “Wieckowski” – we’re a living, breathing testament to the ideal that California is a place where people celebrate, not castigate, their differences.  

For Senators newly sworn—and their loved ones here today—congratulations! For returning Senators, thank you for the historic progress we’ve created together.  If anything, this past election was a powerful reaffirmation of our collective work to make California a stronger, safer, more inclusive and prosperous state.  

I want to acknowledge my Republican counterpart, Jean Fuller, for her service and her friendship. And I want to say to all Senators, Republicans and Democrats, we are all part of the same California community. 

The election is over – thank God.  I could not care less which side of the aisle you sit on – only the quality of your ideas and values that you stand on. 

And I look forward to working with all of you to help more Californians achieve their dreams.

As for my Democratic colleagues, we know that our majority serves at the pleasure of the people and will only be “super” if we lead responsibly, remain fiscally prudent and deliver on our promises.

Even after a legislative session of extraordinary accomplishment, there’s still much urgent work to be done.

Chief – and perhaps most immediate – among them is transportation and infrastructure.  As powerful as California’s economic engine is, our system doesn’t work if Californians cannot get to work. No matter what else we accomplish together, if we don’t comprehensively address the lack of investment in affordable housing and our crumbling roads, bridges, parks and water resources, it will continue to be a drag on the quality of life of our communities.   

In the coming weeks and months, this institution will once again become a conveyer belt of bold ideas to California’s most pressing priorities.  We have much to do over the next two years – and the voters have elected the right women and men to do it.

And yet, when the success of this session is ultimately measured, our most important role might be as a check and balance. See, California is the last rock before the continent gives way to the ocean.  As such, we have always represented the future for restless Americans – a land of what could be.

Now, this body has been called to service at a pivotal – some would say portentous -- moment in our state’s and our nation’s history.

In their wisdom, our constituents have sent us here with a clear and overwhelming mandate to continue making California the truest embodiment of the American Dream.  Where people of all races, religions and backgrounds – can live in safety, attend excellent schools, access health care, breathe clean air and contribute to one of the most powerful economies in the world.

At the same time, we confront a dichotomy of democracy, unique in our history, where the most overt opponent to the state of our state appears to be an incoming Head of State.      

And, although our President-elect lost the popular vote – and 4 million more Californians voted for his opponent, he will be our President and we hold the highest reverence for that office, regardless of whose name is on the desk. But I also know that our democratic and federalist systems were designed by our founders to endure – to be bigger than any one election or one executive.  

Many Californians – some tongue-in-cheek, some hand-to-heart – have advocated withdrawal.  But, in America, no state ever succeeds by seceding. 

So let me be clear: California will accept the election results, as we always do.  California will adhere to the Constitution, as we always do. But California will never appease those who threaten to undermine our prosperity or deprive our people of fundamental human rights. We refuse to regress to the politics of scapegoating, preying on religious, racial and ethnic hostilities, echoing the dark, divisive days of Proposition 187.

We will fight for what’s right and for our California values, as we always do.

Senators, the hallmark of this House has long been policy leadership – emulated across the nation and renowned around the world. But this group of Senators – each and every one of you -- carries the additional and urgent obligation of moral leadership.

More than ever, it’s vital we ensure that California continues to be America’s exceptional example, a beacon of hope and opportunity in an uncertain world.  That we double down on lifting people up. That we defend our people and our progress. And that we continue to be a world leader on: workers’ rights, women’s rights, voting rights, civil rights, social justice, economic justice, climate action, environmental protection, and access to health care and public education for everyone.        

So, let me conclude as I began -- with a message to our constituents, the people of California. Especially those who have been bullied, demeaned, downsized or told they are dispensable because they are different.

California has always been a place where you can be whoever you are – and become whoever you dream of being. That’s a principle which has always been bigger than politics or partisanship.  And there are 40 exemplary Californians on this floor – representing both sides of the political aisle – who I know are ready to stand up and speak out for you.

You have endorsed us with your vote and entrusted us with your future.  And we will not let you down by backing down.  Not now.  Not ever.

Thank you. Now let’s get to work!