Maine’s Constitutional Officers Give Speeches At Recognition Ceremony (VIDEO, TEXT)
After Governor Paul LePage swore in Matthew Dunlap as Secretary of State, Janet T. Mills as Attorney General and Terry Hayes as Treasurer, the three and invited guests reconvened in the House of Representatives.
A reminder: the swearing in for incumbents Dunlap and Mills were both conducted privately by LePage in his Cabinet Room; he swore Hayes into office publicly in the Hall of Flags:
Here are the speeches presented by the trio, with text as prepared for Dunlap and Mills.
1. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D-Old Town)
- Thank you for coming today—and especially, thank you to my wife and family, without whom I would be helpless to ever amount to anything. Also, special thanks, again, to Senator Anne Haskell of Cumberland and Representative Aaron Frey of Bangor for nominating me for another term as Secretary of State.
I’m sorry you missed the actual act of my taking the oath. The Executive had reserved a custodian’s closet for the act, but we had to use it while the good fellow was taking his break, so the schedule didn’t mesh with this event.
We’re nearing the end of the sesquicentennial observation of the Civil War. One of the most famous letters to come out of that war was written by a Rhode Island officer to his wife just days before he was killed in the first Battle of Bull Run. In it, he writes of the noble purpose of the war:
“If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.”
Sullivan Ballou understood that the fight to support the government was really the fight to support freedom—which is our right, as citizens, to govern ourselves, and not, in fear, stand subject to petty actions by some despot. I am grateful that brave, conscientious Americans stand at this hour in harm’s way to protect that same idea. So, empty efforts that attempt to portray false power are just games, and don’t really get under my skin. My work goes on, as does yours, as we all stride forward for a better future.
We live in dangerous times. In any direction that we cast our eyes, we see turmoil. The civil war raging in Syria; tension in Ukraine; distrust in North Korea; piracy in the Gulf of Aden; and our soldiers, sailors and airmen deployed and on high alert in many very, very dangerous places around the world keep us lighting candles and tying yellow ribbons as a show of hope for their safe return.
Even the happy circumstance of falling oil prices contributes to a disturbing sense of global entropy. Cheap oil isn’t good for everyone, and as nations face crippling deflation of their currencies, unrest may well follow.
My instincts, at one time, would have been to turn off the television, close up the front door, and go out back and plant a garden.
While it’s always more comfortable to pretend that all is well and that our problems will go away by themselves, the reality is they don’t, and superheroes only live in comic books. I learned from the examples of so many around me—especially my parents, Bob and Sue Dunlap, that no one will come rescue you when things go wrong; (well, the Maine Warden Service will rescue you, but you know what I mean, generally) you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
My late father, an energetic and creative man, never knew quite what to make of me. I wasn’t like everyone else in my family—they were always making something. I was content to lay around in bed long into a summer’s day, reading and daydreaming. It was a source of tremendous frustration for him, even causing him to exclaim one time that I had no shame, and was the laziest kid he had ever seen.
He would have been stunned at what’s transpired in me since those carefree days.
I believe strongly in what I do; and am grateful for the opportunity to continue in this role bestowed on me by the Legislature. Being able to help people access their government is one of the great blessings of my life, and the calling is strong enough to keep me coming back.
We engage in no small tasks. Nothing I am asked is a bother to me, nor do I ever have anything more important to do, despite the protestations of those who come to me, hat in hand, with what to them is a great issue indeed. We have, in the office of the Secretary of State, very simple rules of engagement.
1. We always tell it like it is; never hedge, blame others, or dissemble.
2. The world stops for kids. Young people are our future leaders, and taking time to listen to them, answer their questions, and show them the respect of any citizen pays long dividends.
3. Do it now. Post-it notes and reminders are the urns of forgotten tasks, and appear to mean that we consider something important to a citizen unworthy of our immediate attention.
We’ve been through a lot since I first stood here. At the time, still fresh from my service in the House, I meant it when I said that my goal for the Legislature was for people to see their representatives and senators as highly effective—because they had a good experience with my office. We’ve had a lot of success there, which was at many times uncertain. There was the long turmoil of the Motor Vehicles computer upgrades—deftly executed by our great people there. Now, we are nearing completion of upgrades to all of our service facilities, and are working towards keeping pace with the expectations and opportunities of the 21st Century.
We’ll have a lot to talk about this session as we consider how Maine will respond to the latest feints by the Federal government towards getting the several states to conjure up for them—at no cost to the Feds—for a national ID and citizen tracking system called REAL ID. Still fraught with problems and sold with fantasy, we’ll want to engage the Legislature for guidance.
We built the Central Voter Registration system, and provided expedited service to military and overseas voters as well as people with disabilities. But the help the Federal government lent us to do that is gone—and they expect us to continue, without the benefit of additional Federal dollars. So we’ll be chatting with you about that, too.
We’ll be working on rebuilding our Corporations databases as well, and at NASS, we’ll continue to grapple with Congress over corporate formation issues that, if they get their way, will be an incredible burden on business and not achieve any of the goals Congress has in mind. We call that process REAL ID Business Class.
At the Archives, we’re putting the resources the last Legislature asked us to use for securing our electronic history to work and are beginning to implement what will be the underpinning of a digital archiving policy. We’re going to keep working on that, and with a largely new and highly energized staff, we’re planning on getting a lot done over the next two years.
We have a lot to do. I could tell you plenty more, and I will; you’ll see me every day, in the halls and in your committee rooms, and I’ll strive to answer your questions and help you craft solutions to the problems that Hector our shared goals of building a stronger, more prosperous Maine for our children.
But let us, as we bend to that work, never forget those who handed off the promise of freedom to us and entrusted us with the promise of the better tomorrow that we live in. Honoring those who have stood, fearless, in times of danger, casts forward the blessing of freedom to the next generation.
Last year, we took the opportunity of better promoting the Vote in Honor of a Veteran program to profile a different veteran every day on our department Facebook page. It was enormously popular, and I still receive thanks from people for highlighting the service of someone they care about.
I thought about how best I could convey the spirit of my passion for this work today. The Executive stated yesterday that actions speak louder than words; and he’s right. But words are important too, so let me conclude with a bit of a mix.
In the fall of 2013, I participated in the somber, yet glorious interment of the remains of Corporal Robert Tait of my hometown of Bar Harbor. Corporal Tait died of starvation in a North Korean prisoner of war camp. Bringing home his remains to rest in our hometown was one of the most meaningful events I’ve been a part of in my professional life.
In my actions, I will never forget. In my actions, I will always strive to serve. And when I serve, I will serve my country with my entire soul.
To honor what I strive to be, let me leave you with a poem written by Herman Melville in 1864 called In the Prison-pen, about the sad plight of prisoners of war. He could have written it about Robert Tait.
Listless he eyes the palisades
And sentries in the glare;
‘Tis barren as a pelican-beach—
But his world is ended there.
Nothing to do; and vacant hands
Bring on the idiot-pain;
He tries to think—to recollect,
But the blur is on his brain.
Around him swarm the plaining ghosts
Like those on Virgil’s shore—
A wilderness of faces dim,
And pale ones gashed and hoar.
A smiting sun. No shed, no tree;
He totters to his lair—
A den that sick hands dug in earth
Ere famine wasted there,
Or, dropping in his place, he swoons,
Walled in by throngs that press,
Till forth from the throngs they bear him dead—
Dead in his meagreness.
In my actions, let their sacrifice be not in vain.
Thank you for your trust in me.
2. Attorney General Janet T. Mills (D-Farmington)
- Thank you, Rob Hunt.
And thank you, Terry Hayes and Matt Dunlap, for the service you are prepared to provide (again) to the citizens of Maine. I want to thank Neria Douglass for her ten years in state service as Auditor and Treasurer at the same time that I welcome Terry Hayes to the ranks of the constitutionals.
And I want to thank my husband Stan, who left us 3 � months ago but whose courage is still the wind beneath my wings.
Last week, before the snow, the ice that formed so quickly was like glass. We could look to the bottom of the lakes and rivers and see clearly to the bottom. It was like a dream where you’re skating and floating above your own reflection, above the rocks and mud ten feet below, ultimate transparency.
And I wondered, are we in state government standing on thin ice too, with no sense of depth, distance or danger?
As days grow longer; as longer, slower shadows fall against these walls and people look for laws and legacies in the halls; as the Kennebec River rushes toward its rendezvous with the ocean, and the days grow longer and wetter, I realize we need more light, less ice. We need to be rowing together towards our very own Merrymeeting Bay.
There are people in this room who keep the boats afloat. And today I want to thank the incredibly hard working attorneys and staffers in the Office of the Attorney General whose commitment to public service and the protection of the public safety is unparalleled.
Working on thousands of matters from child abuse to consumer protection to police involved shootings to healthcare crimes to the challenges of Riverview and the prosecution of domestic violence homicides and felony drug cases, these attorneys are busy solving problems, not creating them; they are busy defending state agencies, litigating, mediating, all on behalf of the public interest. And they deserve our special thanks.
Like the faithful rivers of Maine that do their work under both frigid winds and the sun of sultry summers, rivers that now flow like muscles flexing under a thick hide of ice, the work of government draws from the headwaters of conflict and fertilizes the fields of justice.
Every evening, when I leave the office, I ask: Have we made Maine safer, stronger, better these past few years? Have we made our state more just? Have we strengthened the social contract we have with our citizens, perfecting, not neglecting, our obligations towards each other?
To answer this— Just ask the elderly woman who bravely testified against her own daughter for stealing her life’s earnings in a Bangor jury trial last year.
Ask the familes of the three people shot to death and set on fire in a car in Bangor. Ask about the months of intensive investigation and the four week long trial our office conducted to put those two murderous drug dealers behind bars.
Many more of our homicides involve drugs now and are difficult to solve. And 32 percent of our felony drug cases last year were for heroin, up from only 7 percent two years before.
With 961 babies born in Maine last year affected by drugs and 176 people dead from drugs in 2013, this epidemic deserves an intensive effort—from public education to punishment of dealers and treatment of offenders. Working with the MDEA, the US Attorney, the pharmacies, the medical community and advocates like Skip Gates, my office will take part in the all-out attack on the meth-makers and heroin traffickers who are killing our youth.
It’s not just drugs and murders we’re prosecuting. We’re constantly going after those who cheat the state—
Like the couple in Lewiston who got subsidized housing vouchers for living in a building they owned and profited from themselves.
Like the man who bilked MaineCare out of nearly half a million dollars for counseling services he never provided.
Like the DHHS employee who diverted funds to her boyfriend, and like the DOL employee who bought a camera, an IPod, clothes and new tires for herself with someone else’s voc rehab funds.
And over the last five years our office recouped 69 million dollars in fines and restitution for provider fraud from pharmaceutical companies and others.
We’ve also spent hundreds of hours finding ways to help homeowners facing foreclosure and towns dealing with neighborhood blight.
We’ve collected many thousands of dollars in child support from deadbeat parents across the state, while our volunteer mediators recouped nearly $700,000 for consumers last year.
Because of a 58% increase in child abuse in Maine, our child protection attorneys now carry caseload of more than a hundred apiece, and they make app. 140 court appearances every week.
Among those cases is the 12-month old child whose brain was shattered by a father ill-prepared for parenthood, a case that tears my heart out.
We are also protecting victims of hate crimes, like the Iraqi refugee and war hero who came to Maine looking for sanctuary but ended up sleeping in his car out of fear from the racial epithets and violent threats from a biased neighbor.
We have helped negotiate severance payments for hundreds of hard-working millworkers laid off when the Bucksport mill closed. Today they received their first checks.
A few weeks ago, drowned out by the din of political rhetoric, my office and the Chief Executive settled the Aldrich case that will take nearly a thousand of Maine’s neediest citizens off the infamous waitlist for services.
Some have said, “Why don’t you work better with the Governor?” Well, it’s true, you probably won’t catch Gov. LePage and me sitting down sharing a glass of Chardonnay, eating Brie and watching Downton Abbey together. Not likely. But I do respect the Chief Executive. And I do think we have some things in common: We both like “straight talk.” We both speak our minds. We both believe in action. We both get upset when people steal from the public purse. We are both determined to end domestic violence. We both despise the drug dealers that are killing our youth. We both oppose the scams that rob our veterans of their hard-earned dollars. Like the old Jimmy Cliff song says, we’ve got “many rivers to cross…” But we both believe, fundamentally, in the Rule of Law, the knowledge that our country is governed by laws, not by individuals.
The Rule of Law is what informs the work of our office. Like Mt. Katahdin shedding its cloak of frost and nourishing the streams and fields of Maine, the constitution and the rule of law are the source of all our laws, the foundation for governance.
That is why, on any given day, you will see my office working with the departments of state government and representing the state in nearly 7,000 separate legal matters. We work together; and, for the most part, the interests of my office, the interests of the Maine Legislature and the interests of the administration are aligned.
When they are not, you will know about it. And on the thousands of occasions when they are running smoothly, you will hear little. But know that this happens. And it is for the public good, mindful still of the necessary independence of the constitutional officers.
For the constitutional officers are the brackets, the wedges, the independent glue that secures the beams and rafters of government, that fixes them to the solid long ridge beam that is our Constitution. Working with diligence and integrity, we will hold the beams and trusses of government sturdy against the strongest of winds.
In the coming years, my door will always be open to the administration and to those from all branches of state government. We will work with a spirit of openness, with a passion for the people whose lives we are all here to protect.
We recognize that every disagreement need not become a great divide, every loaded word someone’s Waterloo, every freshet of bravado a flood of conflict, drowning out compromise and progress.
Over the next two years, we will address tough challenges together:
Riverview, with its new building perched along the Kennebec, reflected in the polished State House dome, gives a false sense of comfort to those outside. We will work hard to better balance due process rights, the safety of staff and patients and the fiscal needs and safety of our state.
We will continue to work “cold cases,” 120 unsolved murders, even with only one attorney assigned to all of them.
We will modernize the Medical Examiner’s Office, finding the machinery and expertise to achieve national certification, to finish cases in timely fashion and bring closure to grieving families.
We will create ways for seniors who have been neglected and robbed to be heard effectively in our courts.
We will be vigilant about our Freedom of Access laws. I would love to expand those principles of transparency to other public health institutions where millions of dollars in taxpayer funds are spent in closed door meetings.
We will make sure lenders are offering the relief and foreclosure alternatives which the National Mortgage Settlement requires.
I will speak out against international trade agreements that jeopardize the health, safety and economic well-being of our citizens.
And in my new role as Co-Chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Tobacco Committee, I will be looking for new ways to snuff out the biggest cause of cancer and heart disease in our state and our nation.
This past year there were twenty-one homicides in Maine. We like to think that’s a low number. After all, we have one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Fourteen of those homicides were crimes of domestic violence.
When I consider that statistic, I remember these names:
Jason Montez, who was shot to death by his mother’s husband. He was only 12 years of age. Duwayne Coke, who was strangled to death by his mother’s boyfriend; he was 10 years old. Destiny Sargent, strangled to death by the same man; 8 years old. Noah Smith, shot to death by his father; seven years old. Lily Smith, also shot to death by her father who then turned the gun on himself; she was 4 years old. Sean St. Amand, left in a bath tub by his father with the water running and drowned; he was 11 months old. Korbyn Antworth, beaten and shaken to death by a babysitter; Korbyn was only five months old. And Zade Adams, asphyxiated by a parent at Christmastime. Three months old.
Eight children killed in one year. A first for our state. And we must never let it happen again. The lifeless hopes and dreams of these children and their need for justice will drive our work in the coming years.
Mario Cuomo challenged us forty years ago to make our nation “remember how futures are built,” stressing the need for government to operate as a family with care and compassion for those in need.
As the State of Maine chips away at vital services, at education, public health, drug treatment, mental health and the safety net of our citizens, we must recognize that these decisions may have consequences. They can be named: Jason, Duwayne, Destiny, Noah, Lily, Sean, Korbyn, Zade.
A year from now, will we be standing on a hardened frost, immobilized? Will we be looking at ourselves through sheer ice, unaware of impending dangers? Or will we be steering through moving waters, pulling together as a family, heading in a common direction and helping all the people of Maine stay alive and afloat?
I will be there to help navigate the shoals.
3. Treasurer Terry Hayes (I-Buckfield)