Gov. Asa Hutchinson called on Arkansans to not let “this moment in history pass us by, but let us work together for success” during his inaugural address at the Arkansas State Capitol Tuesday (Jan. 15).
Hutchinson, the state’s 46th elected governor, called on legislators to fulfill some of his campaign promises, including reducing taxes, transforming state government, increasing teacher pay and “focusing on a growth agenda that allows Arkansans to prosper.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, in the course of time, there are special moments where life and history are intertwined,” he said, speaking from prepared remarks. “This day is one of them. The experiences of my life have prepared me for the responsibilities of leading this state, and the story of Arkansas has brought us to this moment. It is a moment in time where we can leave our imprint on history. The moment is here, but the history is yet to be determined.”
In a 15-minute speech on a tolerable January day, Hutchinson also recounted some of the state’s recent successes that occurred during his first term. Industries created more than 80,000 jobs, while 65,000 Arkansans have moved out of poverty. More Arkansans have jobs and fewer are receiving social services, he said. The state has balanced its budget with a long-term reserve fund with a balance of more than $125 million. Meanwhile, Arkansas leads the nation in computer science education thanks to his initiative requiring high schools to teach the course.
He said this is a time of technological achievements and expanded global commerce. Younger Americans value both privacy and community.
“And sadly, today we live in a time of division,” he said. “Our nation has differing views on seemingly everything. This is not historically unusual, but the shrillness of the division distracts us from getting things done. Our response in Arkansas is to lead by example. We can sort through the differences and find the place of agreement to make a difference in life. That to me is the essence of public service and governing.”
He credited his parents, John and Coral, who were farmers without a college degree who raised him and his five older siblings. He said he wanted to be a farmer as a fifth-grader and chose his college major, accounting, “because it was the first major listed alphabetically.” He decided to go to law school after a senior year debate topic on government wire-tapping.
He said he decided he wanted to become governor “much later in life,” though he became governor eight years later than he had hoped. That comment referred to his 2006 loss to then-Gov. Mike Beebe. He said education gave him a lifelong desire to learn and create opportunities.
“And so when I speak to the next generation, I remind them that life is not always planned, but in some instances it unfolds,” he said. “And it unfolds in unexpected ways as learning leads to opportunity.”
Seated alongside Hutchinson were other statewide elected officials including Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, as well as legislators, members of the Arkansas Supreme Court, and former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker. Chief Justice Dan Kemp administered the oath of office.
After his remarks, Hutchinson and his family members walked up the Capitol steps and through its little-used bronze doors, where he and the first lady, Susan Hutchinson, greeted well-wishers on the second floor.