Sarah Sanders speech to the Legislature

January 10, 2023


Gov Sanders: Wow. Speaker Shepherd, President Hester, members of the Supreme Court, distinguished members of the General Assembly, and my fellow Arkansans, it is an absolute honor to stand before you as the 47th governor and the first woman governor of the great state of Arkansas. I was 13 years old when I attended my first joint address back in 1996. Some of you may actually recall, it was a pretty chaotic day. After getting lost in the surging crowd of the hall, I actually missed part of my dad’s first big speech in this very chamber. Today, I made sure to get here bright and early. And much to the surprise of pretty much anyone who knows me, I’m actually on time. I’m grateful to be joined by my family: my wonderful husband, Bryan, our three kids, Scarlett, Huck, and George, and members of our extended family. Thank you all for being here.


We are also honored to be joined by former Governor Asa Hutchinson and the First Lady, Susan Hutchinson. Thank you so much for your service to our state and the example that you have led with over the last eight years. I hope I can meet the bar that you have set. I also want to recognize former Senator and Governor David Pryor and his wife, Barbara, who set an incredible example of service and love for our state. I know how much you loved Arkansas and what a great job you did as parents because I had the opportunity as the attorney general of Girls State to spend an entire day with your son, where he treated me better than anybody should have. And I’m very grateful for your leadership and your service. Thank you for being here today.


As we gather in these storied chambers at the dawn of a new day, a turning point in the history of Arkansas will usher in a new era of good jobs, great schools, safer streets, and stronger families. The people of Arkansas in their vast wisdom have entrusted a new generation to lead. This is our moment. This is our opportunity. And you and I are the leaders who our people have chosen to get the job done. Our reasons for such high confidence and boundless optimism are many.


History teaches us that to every generation comes not only great challenges but great opportunities and often in quick succession. After the upheaval of World War II, there were decades of unparalleled economic growth. And after the turmoil of Vietnam, stagflation, and the gas lines of the 1970s, there was peace and prosperity of the Reagan era. After the financial crisis of 2008 and years of lingering stagnation, there was an unprecedented economic boom. Like the rest of our country, Arkansas has weathered its fair share of storms: a worldwide pandemic, shuttered schools, crippling inflation, and rising crime. But here in Arkansas, that long night of hardship and heartache is breaking into a brighter tomorrow. If we seize this moment together, if we act on the principles that each of us hold dear, we can make Arkansas stronger than it ever has been before. I couldn’t ask for better partners in this endeavor. President Hester, Speaker Shepherd, your partnership is the reason that I know we will deliver for the people of Arkansas.


I want this legislature to know that as Governor, I will always have an open door and an open mind. And like most of you, take note I did say most, I don’t care about getting the credit. I only care about getting results. So this session, let us think bigger. Let us think bolder and do better than we ever have before. I’ll pause. Be careful. In my last job, they never clapped for me at the podium. So when it starts now, I’m going to give you a minute. With family budgets still battered by inflation, let’s deliver another historic tax cut and give the people of Arkansas the pay raise that they deserve. Let’s not surrender the competition for jobs to other states. Let’s cut taxes and bring jobs right here to Arkansas. And let’s also cut wasteful spending so we can continue to phase out the state income tax altogether.


The challenges that we face in education did not appear yesterday. And they certainly will not be solved tomorrow, but we will get started fixing it today. I ask you to send me legislation that expands pre-K, improves literacy, and gives students real-world skills they need to succeed in the workplace. Parents cannot be an afterthought in education. Parents are the foundation of a child’s success. So let’s give parents a greater role in education, including the right to choose the school that’s best for their child, whether it is public, private, or parochial. When we give parents a choice, we give children a chance. In these endeavors, I will be guided by clear principles, principles that I know each of you share.


Among these principles is the belief that the first responsibility of government is to secure the lives, the liberty, and property of its citizens. Any government that tolerates rampant crime has failed in its most important duty. As of today, Arkansas will tolerate crime no longer. Together we will build the prison space we need to keep our citizens safe, and we will put more of our courageous cops on the street. We will shut down the crime wave that has plagued our cities. And let me be clear. We will teach our children that the badge is a symbol of justice, the police are a force for good, and our officers are heroes who are worthy of our highest respect.


There is so much more we can achieve as partners working together. If you send me legislation promoting adoption or improving foster care, I will sign it. And if you send me a bill defending the right to free speech or the right to keep and bear arms, I will sign it. And if you send me a bill that rewards our teachers with higher pay, I will sign it. But make no mistake. If you send me legislation that grows our government at the expense of freedom, I will veto it without hesitation or remorse. As a mom of three kids, I have no problem saying no.


Today, let us reaffirm our commitment to a timeless American idea, that government exists not to rule the people, but to serve the people. The special interests will speak loudly, but it is the voice of the people that we must hear and follow. They are the men and women who till the soil, drive the long hauls, and run the restaurants, the people who work hard, give back to their communities, and help their neighbors in times of need, the people who teach their children to love God and to be proud of their country. They take responsibility for their actions, and they deserve a government that does the same, a government that does a few things and does them exceptionally well. That is the government that they voted for. And that is what we will deliver.


Today, let us each pledge that we will not rest until we have a government that is as good and decent and hardworking as the people of Arkansas. I ask you to stand with me as we work for the state we love and for the people that we serve. Thank you so much for the honor of being your governor. God bless you, and God bless the great state of Arkansas. Thank you so much.