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Speaker Welch: “Everyone who is here to work in good faith and pursue the common good will find common cause with me”

Wednesday, Jan 11, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* What follows is Speaker Welch’s Inauguration Address for the 103rd General Assembly. These are his remarks as prepared for delivery…

Good afternoon!

I want to begin by saying thank you to the House Democratic Caucus members for trusting me for a second time to lead our chamber as the Speaker of the House.

The second of three sons of Emanuel and Willie Mae Welch. The husband of ShawnTe Raines-Welch, and father of Tyler and Marley. A Black kid from the ‘Woods, Maywood and Bellwood, is Speaker of the House. Thank you Illinois!

Thank you Representative Kam Buckner and Leader Lisa Hernandez for your kind words in placing my name into nomination.

I also want to thank and congratulate our new Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias. After what we all watched in Washington last week, you sure made this inauguration look like a model of efficiency.

Secretary Giannoulias – You know as well as anyone the historic shoes you are stepping into as you succeed the great Jesse White. I’m sure I speak for this entire House when I tell you how excited I am to see someone in this office who will respect that history while also looking to the future. We’re glad to have you, and we look forward to the work ahead.

And of course, I want to thank all the families and friends who are joining us here today. When I first took the Speaker’s oath two years ago at the Bank of Springfield Center, had my General Assembly family there – and that meant the world to me – but I can’t tell you how meaningful it is to share this moment today with my wife, ShawnTe Raines-Welch, and our children Tyler and Marley.

I think a lot of the members here today probably feel the same way. So many of you are taking office today for the first time.

Those of you now beginning your second terms had much the same experience I had – taking office in the Bank of Springfield Center knowing our friends and loved ones were watching online, but still missing being able to see and hug the people who were there for us at every step of the way.

Even those of us who have been through this many times had to wonder two years ago – our desks six feet apart, masked, with no vaccines to protect us – whether we would ever be able to experience something like this again.

So while the oaths we took here today are the same words we’ve all said or read before, they are imbued with an added meaning when you can look out and see the people who are the reason you’re saying them.

I consider all this as I laid my hand on our family Bible, which my mom got when my parents bought our first home. She gave it to ShawnTe and I when we were married twelve years ago, and we in turn will some day pass it to Tyler or Marley.

The dream of owning a home was by no means something that was guaranteed to my parents at that time. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and undoubtedly was the subject of a lot of prayer.

They passed those hopes and prayers on to me, never imagining a moment like this would even be possible, but hoping in their hearts that all that they had done to create a better life for me and my siblings would also help us make life better for others.

Last week my little Marley asked me if I was going to give a speech today. When I said yes, she said: “Tell me something you are going to say.”

I was really excited about an 8 year old asking me about a speech. When she gets older, she probably won’t care too much about Dad’s political speeches. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

I told her that I often remind our caucus to remember their ‘why’, and I will probably tell them again. And, yes, today, I am going to say it again.

Everyone of us here today are elected leaders from our community. As leaders, we should ALWAYS remember our ‘why’!

Why do we get out of bed in the morning? Why do we put our names on the ballot to run for office? Why do we leave our loved ones and give up moments with our kids to come here every week? Why?

I still ask myself that question. Why is the second son of Emanuel and Willie Mae named Emanuel and not the first one? Why was I the son given our family Bible? A Bible that my mom signed in March of 1985, 5 months before Chicago gun violence would change our family forever. Why?

As legislators, we’re going to disagree on ‘how’ to achieve a goal, or ‘when’ is the right time to do it. But more often than not, our ‘why’ is very much the same.

We want to help people. We want to use the opportunities afforded to us to create more opportunities for those who come after us.

It’s no secret that Representative Jim Durkin and I would disagree on many of the ‘hows’ and ‘whens’ of lawmaking, and we would often make those disagreements known – sometimes at maximum volume.

And that’s a good thing, because debate and disagreement are necessary steps toward compromise and cooperation – as long as we never lose sight of our ‘why.’

Jim is a man who knows his why, and even through all the debates I never questioned what’s in his heart. I am sincerely grateful for his service,and he deserves a round of applause

Leader Durkin has now passed the torch to Leader Tony McCombie.

Looking out at Leader McCombie’s guests today I see the neighbors she served as leader of a local government; I see the people whose voices she is working to make heard; I see farmers from Whiteside County who have taught both of us about the importance of agriculture to our state; I see the generation that worked hard to help her get here today, and the generation she is working hard to help achieve even more.

Let’s give the first woman ever to lead a House Caucus, a well deserved round of applause.

So while Leader McCombie and I will certainly have our own disagreements, it is my hope that even our disagreements can be productive when we remember that the reasons why we’re doing the work are very similar.

That’s a commitment I make to every member — whether Democrat or Republican – because I am not Speaker of the Democrats but Speaker of the House:

Everyone who is here to work in good faith and pursue the common good will find common cause with me.

Everyone who values civility and respect will find that we have a strong foundation to work from.

Everyone committed to upholding the values of our democracy will be my ally in defense of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Everyone who is ready to do the work and meet the challenges of this moment will have a partner in me – always.

But those who choose discord, those whose blind allegiance to extreme ideology would dismantle our fundamental institutions, those who would derail the work people have sent us here to do – they will find that this House will not waste the people’s time on their games.

Because we know the work we were sent here to do:

We must continue fighting for relief for those middle-class and struggling families hit hardest by unstable markets – because we believe the system should reward work, not wealth.

We must continue rebuilding Illinois’ fiscal house with fiscally and socially responsible budgets – because we know that your budget is a reflection of what you value.

We must continue to prioritize equity in health care, education, workplaces and, yes, also in our justice system – because we know a system that works for everyone is nothing to be afraid of.

We must work for safer communities for all by providing police with the resources they need right now, investing in communities to attack the root causes of crime, and getting illegal guns off our streets — because we know that keeping communities safe requires action, not just talk.

We must stand up to the extremists who want to pull us backward – because matters of basic human dignity shouldn’t be subject to the ideologies of politicians and judges. We must deliver for our small businesses, welcome innovators, and pair them with well trained and highly skilled workers – because we believe that Illinois’ farms and factories, our universities and our union halls, are where we will build the 21st Century economy.

We must protect voting rights and workers’ rights; we must support our schools and care for our seniors; we must speak up for our big cities, our growing suburbs, and our small towns alike – because we were sent here to provide for the common good, not divide for individual gain.

In doing this work, we’re not only doing the job we were sent here to do, we are fulfilling the charge laid out to us all in our State Constitution.

This past Sunday, my family was having breakfast at one of our favorite breakfast places, and my son Tyler asked me, “Dad, does the Illinois Constitution say ‘We the People’?” I said, “Let’s look it up!” And indeed, The Illinois Constitution starts with a preamble that opens up by saying “We, the People of the State of Illinois!”

The preamble is a beautiful beginning to our foundational document. It is a prayer for the strength to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the people;

To maintain a representative and orderly government;

To eliminate poverty and inequality;

To assure legal, social and economic justice;

To provide opportunity for the fullest development of the individual;

To insure domestic tranquility;

To provide for the common defense;

And to secure the blessings of freedom and liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

Tyler asked me that question four days before the Inauguration of the 103rd General Assembly because I was being reminded, “That’s Illinois’ why!”

When I look around this room full of families and friends, parents and children, I see so many of our personal ‘whys’.

Because my parents’ prayers are represented by our family Bible, and the dreams I have for my children aren’t unique to me. They’re something that everyone in this room wants for their own loved ones.

And the hope for a bright future is shared by each of the 12 million Illinoisans we serve in 118 districts from Chicago to Cairo, from Winnetka to Washington Park, and from Westchester to Savanna.

You see, regardless of our region, our race, or our religion, our common prayer is that our work today will build a better tomorrow.

That’s what people in all of our communities hope for every night as they fall asleep, and it’s why they get out of bed in the morning.

It’s up to us to work just as hard on their behalf.

I’m ready to do that work! We’re ready to do that work! Together!

Because the people of Illinois sent us here to do the work!

We know the mission of this moment and we know our why!

Members of the 103rd General Assembly, let’s rise to meet this moment!

Let’s use this time and all that has been given to us to do the work and move Illinois forward!

May God Bless us all!

Thank you!!!


1 Comment
  1. - What's in a name? - Wednesday, Jan 11, 23 @ 2:17 pm:

    Love it. Tyler and Marley, your Dad did a great job today.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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