DENVER – Below is the transcript of Colorado Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen’s (R-Monument) speech on the opening day of the First Regular Session of the 74th General Assembly.
“Mr. President, Mr. Majority Leader, colleagues, families, guests here in the Capitol, and to the People of Colorado : Welcome. To Senators Pelton (Byron and Rod), Baisley, Rich, Roberts, Exum, Cutter, Marchman, Mullica, and Sullivan, I extend a warm welcome to the state senate.
I was hoping to give a different, larger, not longer but larger, speech from a different location; about 15 feet back and about 7 feet higher.
That said, colleagues, I am grateful and honored for the opportunity to stand before you today and share with you some hopes going into this legislative session.
Despite the persistent problems and challenges the people of Colorado face, I am optimistic about our future….because the people of Colorado are an optimistic people.
There are challenges. Challenges faced by all. All of us face something completely unexpected in Colorado–empty store shelves–and runaway UNaffordability when we do find the products and services we seek. All of us face a season of rising crime that will continue to expand unless we commit to a culture that honors law and law enforcement. All of us face a public school system that is hemorrhaging quality teachers and failing to meet the needs of far too many students unless we fund and focus on students instead of the system. All of us face a water shortage crisis that will desiccate our grandchildren’s future unless we are serious about storing the precious resources to which we are legally entitled. And all of us face a future where energy is unreliable and unaffordable unless we wisely use the best carbon transition fuels we have and explore alternative energy options, like nuclear. A recession appears to be at our shared doorstep and the government continues to grow faster than family budgets. We face challenges too big to ignore and opportunities too important to fumble. Failure to address these issues risks leaving our grandchildren to face a parched, unlivable, ignorant existence.
Yet, in the face of haunting statistics about rising crime and exploding unaffordability, the people of this state get up every morning, unsure of what the day ahead holds, and work to build better lives for themselves and their families. Coloradans remain optimistic.
Why? One reason is: adversity has a clarifying effect. When you find yourself challenged, the extraneous, the minutia, the distraction, falls away. When wheat is fed into the thresher the chaff blows away. When ore is blasted by the heat of the crucible it is refined into something precious. In politics unexpected losses bless you with focused thoughts.
Like the people of Colorado do every day, we must all lean forward and strain toward the prize of a better Colorado for ourselves, our children and our posterity.
I have been asked, can a team of twelve, the minority caucus in this august chamber make a difference? The answer rings clear. Yes! The Republican caucus in this chamber can, and I believe will, make a fundamental difference. You will experience the difference in the way this body and the broader General Assembly takes on and talks about issues. And possibly more importantly, we will help this Chamber lift up its head, look to the far horizon, and take on the basic issues that will provide extraordinary opportunities to our grandchildren and their children with a willingness to thoughtfully discern priorities and a laser focus that dismisses unsustainable political pet projects.
I mentioned the Republican caucus in this chamber can, and I believe will, make a fundamental difference in the way this body takes on and talks about issues. We face some tough issues this session, those empty shelves I mentioned earlier, unaffordable goods and services, crime, a struggling education system, soaring energy costs.
These difficult conversations can be noisy. In fact, politics has become extremely noisy. In part because everyone who chooses–and most politicians choose–own a broadcast channel. The truth is it’s not really a broadcast channel, it’s a narrowcast channel and you and I are increasingly rewarded with dopamine hits–we get the hits when we get more “likes” or “shares” than the with the previous post–and we tend to get more hits when we post things that tickle the fancy of one edge, or the other, of politics. Not so much when we talk common sense.
It is almost unanimous, the people we represent, the whole people of Colorado, say they do NOT like polarized politics. Those of us charged with the burden of representing the people’s interests face a dilemma. Post something that gets attention and likes and shares and viral explosion, or post something that informs, even if it informs people of something they’d prefer not to hear. We can ratchet up the noise of politics or we can elevate the level of debate.
Toward that end, I’ve put a fully amendment 41 compliant gift on each of your desks today. I realize you have precious little time to read another item at this moment, so it’s more of a placeholder for a conversation.
In the bestselling Seven Habits of highly effective people, Steven Covey suggested we make more headway and create more good in life when we first seek to understand, and then to be understood. It tends to be our nature as politicians to launch into any debate at full throttle to tell everything we know about a matter. Pretty soon we’re talking right past each other and the cacophony can only be described as noise. The book on your desk has the subtitle of “talking politics without the noise.” It offers each side of the aisle the ability, at least in some small way, to seek first to understand before seeking to be understood.
So now we launch into 120 days of policy and politics. Together we face some persistent problems and it is likely that new challenges will arise.
The election is behind us, and we honor the result. The twelve Republican senators seated in this chamber were also elected by the hard-working people who call Colorado home. And we have a responsibility to represent our constituents, as well as the principles of individual freedom, the wisdom of crowds, or said another way, market forces, and a constrained government that animates creativity among the people, and of course we have a burden to hear and amplify the voices of people from every corner of Colorado. It is our duty that the voices of people who find themselves in the minority in this season of Colorado’s history be heard and shared.
The saying in this body is that the minority gets their say, and the majority gets their way. But we are intent to do more than just talk. We insist to be full participants in the legislative process in this chamber, and will offer our best, constructive suggestions for making the future laws of this state better. Many of the issues fought over in this past election are not solved, they are still with us. The work on these practical matters is pressing in on us even now.
It is a tradition in this building to claim that this policy or that piece of legislation is bi-partisan. The application of one, or sometimes two member’s names, from the second party has been the accepted measure of that claim. Moving forward we propose the marker that gives honest purchase to the claim of bipartisanship should be: the tone, tenor and discernable principles and meaningful details folded into the legislation. We hope that the majority will listen to our ideas and incorporate the best of them in what we ultimately together offer the people of Colorado.
In an echo of Covey’s encouragement for to us to seek first to understand then to be understood, let’s start from the perspective that every material amendment offered–is a friendly amendment.
To the majority caucus: We will make honest and sincere efforts to work with you. And yet we must not mislead ourselves into believing that the government can solve all problems. We must not use the resources and mechanisms of state government in a way that encumbers our grandchildren with a burden that cripples their future economy or saddles those precious souls with a debt they can never repay. We cannot, nor should we ever, expect the people of Colorado to unwillingly surrender anything that is theirs, including their hard-earned money, their closely-held beliefs, their livelihoods or small businesses, or their basic rights as enshrined in the United States Constitution. Together we must find balance in our discussions and a willingness to look to that far horizon. For it is in those commonsense and broadly acceptable solutions and the ability to crane our necks to see beyond today, even tomorrow, far beyond our time in this chamber that the optimism of the people of Colorado rests.
To the People of Colorado: We care about your family’s ability to get ahead–not just survive. We care about your safety and that of your children. We care about the quality and flexibility of your childs’ education that is so important to their future success. We won’t be able to fix every problem this state faces during these next 119 days. In fact, to conclude that all the solutions lie in government action is false on its face and the highest order of misguided hubris. What we can do is give space in every Coloradan’s life. Space for freedom and opportunity, creativity and ingenuity, and access to support and connection to help when a season of life is so heavy as to overwhelm a fellow Coloradan.
So, though in many cases, misguided policies have created or exacerbated the problems of today, I am optimistic that when we more fully embrace the principles and values that have made this country and this state exceptional we change our future for the better.
These coming years will likely be tough on the people of Colorado, and only through bipartisan cooperation, and reasoned application of the best and most inherently sustainable ideas, will we be able to overcome the challenges all of us face. The Senate Republican caucus eagerly awaits the opportunity to help achieve solutions that will benefit all Coloradans.
May God bless the work we undertake today with wisdom and a spirit of joy and understanding. May God bless you and your families today and your future generations.
Thank you for your attention.”