Maine: An Encyclopedia

King Inaugural Address 1995

Governor Angus S. King, Jr., January 5, 1995

Members of the Judiciary, the Legislature, the International Consular Corps, family, friends, and citizens of Maine:

We have been through hard times together.

Maine’s economy has been rocked by cutbacks in defense; by a crisis in the fisheries; by a drop in Canadian tourism; by a potato blight; and by a deep New England recession.

Many of us have watched helplessly — and with great sadness as our children have moved away from Maine in search of opportunity outside our borders.

Even worse — in the last few years — there were times when it seemed that our very spirit had been broken.

We lost our self-confidence, our resilience, our inner compass.

We began to point fingers — and to assign blame. Mutual trust — and public civility — collapsed. But somehow we managed to survive.

We have made it through. Now the recession is finally ending, the wounds have begun to heal, and it’s time to move on.

But we go forward as different people than we were five years ago. We have learned some hard lessons.

We are tougher, wiser … and more humble. We now understand, first of all, that we’re all in this together and we need each other.

We’re all in this together, and we need each other.

We need each other to do well. For when one of us succeeds, we all succeed. And when one of us fails, we all suffer the consequences.

It’s an old lesson, but sometimes it has to be learned again the hard way, and I deeply hope we’ve learned it now.

We’ve also re-learned a another old truth — that we can only make progress
tomorrow if we are honest and direct in facing our problems today.

In the last few years, we’ve tried to avoid problems by gimmicks, by games and by delays.

But these schemes haven’t worked. As a result, the problems are still with us.

In fact, Maine is one of the few state governments left in the nation still coping with budget shortfalls.

Most of the others are figuring out what to do with new-found surpluses.

So Maine must now play catch-up. We have to do it quickly. And we have to do it honestly — with a dose of old-fashioned Maine standbys — common sense, integrity, and a willingness to bite the bullet.

Maine people tell me they’re ready.

Our legislators tell me they’re ready.

I’m ready.

This will be the year.

But we can’t do it with a fractured political system that’s more political than system.
We can’t do it with partisanship and bickering.

Did you send us to Augusta for that?

We can’t do it with name-calling and gamesmanship.

Did you send us to Augusta for that?

We can’t do it by avoiding the tough calls and playing games with the budget.

Did you send us to Augusta for that?

And finally, we can’t do it by going to the people for more taxes.

I know you didn’t send us to Augusta for that.

But if we put the politics aside and work together–not seeking universal agreement, but seeking at least an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust–we can do it.

We can solve the budget problem…but perhaps more importantly, in the process of doing so, we can restore the people’s faith in the system…and in us.

As a symbol of my determination to make this happen, I have invited the leaders of the legislature and two representatives of the state’s workforce to join me on the platform here tonight–for no one governs Maine–or does the people’s business–alone.

Joe Carleton
Libby Mitchell
Paul Jacques
Walt Whitcomb
Dan Gwadosky
Bev Bustin
Jane Amero
Leo Kieffer
Mark Lawrence
and Jeff Butland

I salute each of you for your commitment to Maine and I am honored to have the opportunity to work with you–and the other legislators and employees of the state you represent–as we undertake the historic task of preparing Maine and her people for a new Century.

But before we begin that journey, we have some unfinished business that I’ve
mentioned–the now chronic shortfall in our state’s budget.

I am absolutely convinced that there is only one way to solve this problem:

no more gimmicks

no more delays

no more taxes

We look it in the eye, and nobody blinks.

And so we must continue the painful task of reigning in state spending while at the
same time empowering our employees with the tools, the technology, and the
management to do their jobs with enthusiasm and pride.

And we can do it–if we stick together, if we don’t lose heart, if we stay honest and resolute, and above all, if we keep before us the big picture–that individual
programs–no matter how worthy–must sometimes give way to the overriding need to show the people of Maine that their government is finally ready to live within its means.

And this process starts at this time and in this place.

Right now, I am signing an Executive Order which freezes state hiring. From this day forward — the state government of Maine will be smaller.

And it is my intention to use the savings from this action to eliminate the so-called
payroll push scheduled for this June and demonstrate to state workers that that we care about their lives and livelihoods.

And now I am signing a second executive order requiring a system-wide review of all state regulations and I will maintain and strengthen the current Executive Order which requires prior review by the Governor’s Office of all new regulations.

From this day forward — the state government of Maine will be on our side.

And finally — I am signing a third Executive Order to subject state contracts and grants with outside sources to a rigorous and thorough review.

From this day forward — the state government of Maine will understand that it is the people’s hard-earned money that is being spent.

I am committed to these and other steps that will return the state government of Maine to her people and establish once and for all that the government is here to serve the people and not the other way around.

But is this all there is? Talk of budget deficits and tough choices?

No…because I’ve got a secret to share. Right now, it’s a rustling, an impression, a feeling–but it’s real– Maine is on the move.

In Aroostook County — there’s a new mall, an accounting center coming, and an exciting–indeed — revolutionary–innovation in education as five school districts are linking up electronically to serve the kids better–at a lower cost.

Maine…is on the move.

In the Western Mountains, the nationally acclaimed bethel station project is open…and the longest, fastest quad in the east rolls to the top of Sugarloaf.

Maine…is on the move.

In the south, Old Orchard has spruced up its downtown, the Sea Dogs and Pirates are the rage, and the arts are thriving.

Maine…is on the move.

Along the coast, our quality of life and state-of-the-art telecommunications have brought us MBNA, Seafax, and Auto-Europe…and hundreds of new jobs.

Maine…is on the move.

Downeast, blueberries are becoming a world-class crop and the port at Eastport is coming back.

Maine…is on the move.

A new spirit of partnership is spreading across the land. We recognize that our common humanity and our common citizenship binds us together more closely than any labels which divide us.

Before we are rich or poor, before we are north or south, before we are Republicans, Democrats, or Independents, we are first of all members of the human family; we are fathers and mothers, neighbors and friends.

We are, simply put, the people of Maine.

And we must understand that the future is ours–it will be what we make it. We have it within our power here tonight to make Maine one the world’s special places–a place where our children have real opportunity, where we live in harmony with the natural environment, and where we can be proud of our heritage.

What it will take is commitment, good faith, teamwork…and vision.

And so, tonight I want to share my vision with you, a vision for Maine in the new Century.

But since visions are more than words, I have asked Maine filmmaker Jeff Dobbs to help me present mine to you–and in the process, to present Maine itself, in all its variety, beauty, and essential strength.


Maine’s geography has always been its destiny. European America really began off our coast as fishermen and trappers came from England and France to tap the rich resources of the cold North Atlantic and the nearby forests.

For generations, the harvest of the sea sustained our people and kept their faces turned toward the world. Maine-made coasters and clipper ships were the fiber optics of their age, linking Maine to the world of trade and jobs. The charm of our coastal towns–Bath, Camden, Thomaston, Bangor–yes, Bangor–dates form the days when real wealth sprang from the sea.

“When my ship comes in” had a literal meaning in those days, and we are still the richer for it.

Inland, too, geography determined our economy and defined our character. If ever you feel overwhelmed by the twentieth century–taxes, the telephone, traffic–stop for a moment and contemplate clearing the land of Aroostook, without the benefit of tractor or backhoe.

And we became a state of small towns–towns whose names often remind us of those who were here first–Millinocket, Skowhegan, Ogunquit, Damariscotta; or towns across the ocean the settlers called home–Falmouth, Bath, Rumford, Belgrade, Bristol; or heros of the founding days–Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, and a town in the western mountains named for our first governor, my own personal favorite, Kingfield. And then of course come our “country” towns -Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Peru, Mexico, China.

A few thousand souls perched at the corner of a vast continent with no one to turn to for aid or support–but themselves.

Life in these small towns defined our character. Honesty and fair dealing are not optional qualities in such a place. When repeat business is all there is, these qualities are necessary to survive.

A flinty self-sufficiency – which translated into a sometimes cranky independence – also arose from small town circumstances, coupled with hard land and an even harder climate.

But inter-dependence was necessary as well. In Winthrop in 1850, there was no one to turn to for help in a time of crisis — except your neighbors.

Farmers, fishermen, loggers–all more or less solitary pursuits which formed the basis of our economy, and our character as well.

As the slope of the White mountains crosses Maine to the Atlantic rim, water falls, in the Kennebec, the Penobscot, the Androscoggin, and the Saco. And to the founders of Maine, falling water meant one thing, power–and the industrial revolution came to America. Wherever there were falls, there soon were water wheels and mills and Brunswick, Lewiston, Rumford, Waterville, even Augusta sprang to industrial life.

To these mills came new settlers, the Franco-Americans from Quebec to enrich our social, economic, and cultural life.

And then, of course, come the forests, sweeping like a mighty wave from the  Canadian border across Maine to the very margin of the sea. From the air, it looks like a light green ocean, with islands that mark our northern towns, and mill stacks, which mimic the masts of coastal schooners.

In the early days, the real masts came from Maine, and the forests have provided for us ever since. Lumber, clothes pins, dowels, chairs, log homes, and paper. Tons of paper, miles of paper, mountains of paper. And from paper, some of the best jobs in Maine.

For sheer overwhelming industrial power, the sight of a six story high paper machine, producing a sheet at the rate of a mile a minute, making the very ground shake, is hard to capture any way but in person.

Those machines–like the wood turners of Solon, the sardine canners of Belfast, or the blueberry packers of Machias–are machines for adding value, for creating wealth, for their owners to be sure, but for the people of Maine as well.

The first settlers, by the way, went home for the winter, with their holds full of salted cod and haddock. Do you suppose the Native Americans had a word that translated today would mean Summer People”?

And of course, vistors are still one of our most important natural resource-based industries. Our incomperable coast, the rolling fields of The County, lakes beyond counting–and the greatest monument to the foresight, determination, and generosity of one person that exists in America, Baxter Park and a magical place called Katahdin.

Assembled painstakingly over sixty years, and thrust into the hands of a sometimes reluctant State government, this gem of Maine stands as a testament to generations as yet unborn that we sometimes can–even as individuals–make a real difference in
the world.

But what of the future? Where does our vision–and our geography–lead us? The answer lies in the journey we have already taken, with some new opportunities technology has opened to us.


You have bestowed upon me a sacred trust… and a solemn challenge.

I accept this trust and will not dishonor it; I welcome this challenge and will not shirk from it.

The future does indeed belong to all of us, and, with God’s help, we who are assembled here tonight–as well as you in all corners of the state–will reach out together to secure it for ourselves, and for those who follow.

Thank you.

Source: (8/1/2001)

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This entry was last modified: June 17, 2012 12:42 AM

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