Isn’t it great to be back in this beautiful chamber again for the first time? Some of us had a preview of working in here last week when Jack Tate was sworn in as a state senator.
We all take an oath of office before we are “seated” at these desks. This is usually after a general election. I have now taken the oath of office 7 times. I took a similar oath in the Army, over 30 years ago.
This oath means a lot to me. It has meant something special every time I have taken it. I know it means something to each of you.
I still get goosebumps when I say it.
I Bill Cadman do solemnly swear to support the Constitution of the United States and of the State of Colorado and faithfully perform the duties of the office of state senator to which I was duly elected, to the best of my abilities, so help me God.
We don’t just recite it like a school poem. The oath is administered by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Hopefully, it’s the only time we will ever be on her docket.
This oath has always had special meaning to me, and a few months ago that meaning was greatly enhanced.
This happened in a place called Gettysburg. If you have not been there, you must get there. If you have been there, you probably understand. Gettysburg, where in perhaps the three most bloody and courageous days in our nation’s history, two American armies fought for conflicting dreams. – This was well summarized by author Michael Shara.
The experience of being in Gettysburg deepened my understanding of the price paid by our forefathers for the lives we enjoy in this country and this state. As Senator Scheffel and I stood in the middle of that great battlefield, the solemn purpose of that encounter and that war was truly manifest before our eyes.
The soldiers who died there were not fighting for kings, or land, or personal possessions…they were fighting for each other, they were fighting for freedom. They were fighting for a place where no man had to bow. A place where a man could stand up free of the past, free of tradition and blood ties and the curse of royalty, and become what he wished to become. They were fighting for the FIRST PLACE ON EARTH where THE MAN MATTERED MORE THAN THE STATE.
These sentiments were expressed by Union Army Colonel Lawrence Chamberlin. He told his soldiers, “We are an army going out to set other men free.” “We are an army going out to set other men free.” Not for Kings, or land, or personal possessions.
TRUE FREEDOM BEGAN HERE IN THIS COUNTRY! The civil war would determine if it would endure.
The good news…Freedom Won!! Freedom Won!!!
Here we are, in a capitol building, in our Capitol building that is known for being the spiritual and physical center of Colorado. I have found myself in this chamber for hours on end trying to fully comprehend all that this place represents, all that it means… and it’s so much more than the granite, the steel, the brass and the marble. It’s more than the views. Winston Churchill said we build buildings then they build us.
This place on Brown’s Bluff is the very symbol of the idea and ideals of freedom. This amazing structure stands as a tribute itself to a government entrusted to ensure that MAN MATTERS MORE THAN THE STATE. THIS PLACE STANDS AS A TESTAMENT TO EVERY BATTLE WHERE FREEDOM WON!
If freedom had lost, we WOULDN’T be here. If freedom had lost, we COULDN’T be here.
I stand in here…and I think about our oath. I believe as senators and representatives the oath is what binds us together. Seven times I have sworn this oath and tried to truly comprehend all that it means.
What are we “Swearing to do, so help us God?” The answer is simple, it’s simple. We promise to support the Constitution and we promise to faithfully perform our duties to the best of our abilities.
We promise, as elected officials to do these two things. They both require leadership. They both require leadership.
We promise to perform our duties to the best of our abilities. This is transactional leadership, this is about doing our job, it’s about managing the tasks and responsibilities of holding these offices. It’s about learning how to legislate, and delegate, and participate in this process. Performing our duties to the best of our abilities means passing a balanced budget and a school finance act. Our duties include dealing with countless issues and finding solutions that will best serve more than five million people. We are tasked to find solutions to enormous challenges.
Performing our duties to the best of our abilities means finding the best solutions. Leadership means finding solutions. It’s not about partisan solutions.
President Kennedy once said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer.”
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer.”
Rising to that challenge, we have much to be proud of in our accomplishments together in the first half of this term. As our agenda was presented for 2015 session I believed the issues we focused on would unite us and they did.
We didn’t seek Republican solutions or Democratic solutions, we sought the right solutions and we succeeded.
UNITED WE SUCCEEDED
We sought the right solutions for our public schools. We increased funding and worked to reduce the negative factor.
We sought the right solutions to address the extremely burdensome amount of school testing we had piled up on the backs and in the backpacks of our kids. We took the entire 120 days of the session to pass HB15-1323 to reform school testing. Senators Holbert and Kerr spearheaded this reform effort through one of the most thought-provoking, intense and complicated public policy debates I have seen in 16 years. Senators Hill and Merrifield, your efforts didn’t go unnoticed because much of the work you did on SB15-257 was incorporated into the final product.
We sought the right solutions for Workforce Development opportunities for our high-school graduates. We passed bills to increase partnerships that are bringing our schools and our employers together to provide graduates the necessary skills for competing in a global economy.
We capitalized on many great recommendations of the “Colorado Talent Pipeline Report.” Thank you Senator Newell for your work on getting that Report done. It provided a road map for success and we followed it.
Four Republican senators – Woods, Marble, Cooke, and Hill – joined with five Democratic senators – Donovan, Hodge, Heath, Todd, and Kerr – sponsored 8 successful bills that were signed into law by the Governor.
I want to share my appreciation for the House Majority Leader Representative Duran for all of her work and leadership on this issue as well.
Empowering our kids to succeed is our greatest responsibility – their success IS the ultimate return on our investment. Colleagues, you deserve to be recognized and congratulated for the bi-partisan collaboration you inspired to meet this charge.
We sought the right solutions for new accountability of our own government through regulatory reform, auditing and compliance measures. Our health care exchange will be audited thanks to Senators Sonnenberg and Jahn who sponsored SB-019.
Senators Newell and Lundberg produced a historic shift of oversight for the Child Protection Ombudsman’s Office with a bill that faced an uphill battle from the very Governor you needed to sign it. THAT WAS A GREAT TESTAMENT TO YOUR TENACITY.
The Department of Youth Corrections will become more accountable thanks to HB15-1131 carried by Senator Lambert and Representatives Esgar and Lee.
We must be vigilant to ensure these reforms find compliance and implementation. We must continue to root out failed policies and programs while recommitting with every session to deliver efficient and effective programs to Coloradans.
We sought the right solutions around increasing safety in our public schools.
We honored the memory and the lives of Colorado school children, stolen from their families by unimaginable acts of violence. Working together we made school safety a prime directive of our K-12 institutions. Senator Scheffel led that effort with Democrat Leaders in the House to pass SB15-213 and SB15-214. We established an interim committee dedicated exclusively to understanding the challenging issues that our kids and our school personnel face. As a member of that interim committee, I can tell you the amount of research is daunting and the psychological challenges surrounding our kids are undeniable. While legislative solutions are elusive, I am convinced that we must continue the work of this committee.
With 836,220 kids in our classrooms, their health and welfare while attending our schools must remain at the center of our attention and at the peak of our efforts.
We sought the right solutions on Policing Reform.
With broad bipartisan support we improved data collection on police shootings (SB15-217, Roberts & Cooke), expanded required medical tests to help protect victims, peace officers and other first responders (SB15-126, Cooke & Johnston), and we worked to protect the rights of minors who are victims of human trafficking (HB15-1019, Woods).
We must continue working side-by-side with law enforcement to ensure that integrity and accountability are the main characteristics of all who pin on a badge, strap on a gun, and swear an oath to serve and protect us, our families and our communities.
What we cannot do, what we must not do, is partake in any activities or actions that vilify those who serve and protect us. Our efforts should commend our heroes for their willingness to spend their weekends, their holidays, their birthdays and anniversaries away from their loved ones so we can safely enjoy those occasions with ours.
These are our first responders, they are our lifesavers, they rush in to life threatening situations while the rest of us are rushing out. They are willing to forgo their own safety in order to ensure ours. And all too often, frankly, way too often they pay for it with their lives.
The Bible says there is no greater love than that of a man willing to lay down his life for his brother. Our first responders are the exception to that…they are willing to lay down their lives for a stranger, for us.
Colorado held 4 funerals for law enforcement last year... 4 funerals for our heroes.
We lost Sergeant Sean Renfro, Jefferson County Sheriffs Office who was hit and killed while directing traffic away from a crash. We lost Trooper Taylor Thyfault who was struck and killed by a vehicle fleeing police. We lost trooper Jamie Jursevics who was struck and killed by a drunk driver. And we lost Police Officer Garrett Swasey from UCCS when he responded to the shooting in Colorado Springs on the day after Thanksgiving.
These officers Ended Their Watch while serving to protect us. WE are HONORED to have the wife of Officer Swasey here with us today.
Rachel, thank you for joining. We are so sorry for your loss.
Numerous other officers were also critically injured last year while serving us and our thoughts and prayers go out to them for quick and full recoveries.
We need our heroes now more than ever because public safety demands are now greater than ever. Adding to the traditional challenges, the FBI has reported that in the last 12 months over 90 members of ISIS have either been killed or arrested in this country. We have terrorists here, ISIS is in our cities and in our neighborhoods. Our police, our sheriffs, our state patrol, they are our first line of defense against terrorism, and we need them.
As if their job wasn’t already hard enough, we have now seen the badges and uniforms of Law Enforcement used as targets. Across the country, there have been nearly two dozen officers assassinated in the last two years just for putting on their uniforms.
Our words and our deeds must support them. Our policies must protect them.
If we don’t do this at the very least for them in our positions, how can we demand the very most from them in theirs?
We sought the right solutions on another major piece of legislation that was significant for public safety and has been widely publicized recently. We passed the Felony DUI Bill (HB 15-1043). Senators Cooke and Johnston, that concern has been a long time in the works and you we able to find success where countless other attempts have failed. CONGRATULATIONS!
Colleagues, we can be proud of what we did together. “We sought the right answers, not the Republican answers or the Democratic answers.”
We sent 364 bills to the Governor’s desk last year…if that’s not enough, it really should be. That’s a lot of bipartisan agreement to pass through two chambers.
We have “performed our duty to the best of our ability,” we exerted transactional leadership. We were successful, together.
“I do solemnly swear to support the Constitution.” This is the other part of our oath, this is the first part and it is the most important.
Because without the Constitution, the rest of the oath doesn’t matter. Without the Constitution, MAN will not MATTER more than the state.
The Constitution ensures that free men are governed, that free men are self-governed, not ruled like subjects of medieval monarchies. It’s the Constitution that Colonel Chamberlain must have been contemplating as he commanded soldiers who were willing to fight and to die, not for kings, or land or personal possessions. They were willing to fight and to die to set other men free.
When we swear to support the Constitution, we become the stewards of something revered. As senators we become transformational leaders, accepting a responsibility that elevates our accountability.
This building is more than the sum of its parts; the Constitution is more than the sum of its words. We must support it, we must protect it, we must defend it and we must understand the price that has been paid for this sacred chalice of freedom.
With our oath, we become the Guardians of this hallowed chalice.
This is something priceless entrusted to our hands. This chalice contains something sacred, it holds the blood shed on that battlefield in Gettysburg, and it holds the sacrifice of every hero who has paid the price for freedom on every battlefield. This chalice contains something else, it holds the tears of the families of our fallen warriors. There is no bottom to this vessel and it constantly demands more sacrifice.
Every first responder or member of our military who has sacrificed their life around the world and across this country paid that price for something greater than themselves.
Senator Scheffel and I got a sense of that cost on that battlefield in Gettysburg in September; I got a sense of that cost as I stood on a cliff above Omaha Beach and looked back at nearly 10,000 white granite crosses in Normandy; I got a sense of that cost at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC.; we get a sense of that cost when we see a flag, folded in a triangle, delivered to the family of a veteran; or a fallen officer with a salute, with a trumpet playing taps and with the following words…on behalf of a grateful nation.
Now, on behalf of a grateful state, this is an appropriate time to recognize and honor our special guests representing our First Responders and our National Defenders.
Would all of our Veterans please stand.
Not for kings, or land or personal possessions, Americans do fight for an ideal, we do fight for our Constitution. We have a 240-year tradition of fighting wars to set ALL MEN and WOMEN free. PLEASE THANK THEM AGAIN.
Our military members swear an oath to support and defend the constitution…our law enforcement officers, our sheriffs swear an oath to support the constitution. In their jobs, they are willing to die for it. In our jobs, we must be willing to live for it.
OATH – WE do solemnly swear to support the Constitution of the United States and of the State of Colorado and faithfully perform the duties of the office of state senator to which WE were duly elected to the best of our abilities, so help US God.
As the delegates left Independence Hall in 1787, a Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got?” He Replied, “A Republic if you can keep it.” Our founders knew they had created something never seen before and understood the challenges of keeping it.
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” President Ronald Reagan
Our oath demands that we protect the legacy we inherited from those who came before us, and pass it on to those who follow.
All of us who live here are heirs to this Freedom. Those of us who serve here are trusted to protect it.