Remarks of Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, as prepared for delivery at her inauguration, provided by her office.
Thank you Justice Lillehaug. Governor Dayton, I am honored to serve with you, and deeply grateful for your service to Minnesota.
Chief Justice Gildea. Justice Page. Senator Klobuchar. My friend and mentor Vice President Mondale. My parents Chris and Harlan Flint. My husband Archie and dear sons Sam and Mason – and Louie Mondale. Distinguished guests, friends, Minnesotans. I am honored by your presence, and deeply honored to be sworn in as Minnesota’s 48th Lt. Governor. I will serve Minnesota to the very best of my capacity.
In 1882, Charles Alfred Pillsbury completed construction of the Pillsbury “A” Mill, the largest flour mill in the world on the banks of America’s greatest River. His drive for a better way revolutionized flour milling in America, changed wheat growing practices, and changed Minnesota and the whole world for the better.
In truth, Minnesota has been a capitol of invention, a veritable hotbed of creative thinking, ingenuity, and “how can we do this better” thinking since before written history, starting with the Dakota and Ojibwe people, who invented better ways to harvest and preserve food, and survive Minnesota winter days like this one.
It’s amazing when you think about it. People living in Minnesota invented the first autopilot used on airplanes during World War II. We engineered a new process to turn low-grade iron ore into valuable taconite pellets (and so saved a way of life and economy on the Iron Range). Minnesotans developed advances in agriculture that feed the world. We pioneered open-heart surgery and pacemakers. We invented HMOs, supercomputers, wet/dry sandpaper, post-it notes, Harelson apples, water skis, snowmobiles, snow blowers (not surprising) and winter hardy alfalfa. Not to mention Bisquick, SPAM, Tonka trucks, and Twister.
These inventions have made life better, safer, healthier, and more fun for millions of people.
We have to ask ourselves, why has a state with a relatively small population produced so much invention?
We often talk about our rich natural resources, and our well-educated people, and certainly these factors are important – even essential.
But Invention requires something more. It requires the capacity to see possibility, connection and relationships where others just see problems. Inventors see something that isn’t working that great and ask, how can we make it work better? Inventors bring urgency and purpose to their work – they are in a hurry to make progress.
This is a characteristically Minnesota way of thinking. Whether you are a 10th generation Minnesotan or your family moved north last year, at our best we are earnest, hardworking, disciplined people who every day in big and small ways are determined to make things work better, for the good of the whole.
This is the heart of invention, and the heart of what makes Minnesota exceptional. In business language, we would call this our competitive advantage.
Minnesota’s challenge for 2015 and beyond is to nourish this spirit of invention – to keep our competitive advantage.
Inventive thinking obviously applies to making things work better. But it also must apply to making our politics and communities work better – better public services, better transportation, stronger business climate, safer neighborhoods, excellent schools. To achieve this requires investment, but it also requires us to get better at challenging the conventional wisdom and measuring our progress. We need to replace words like “we tried that before” or “that can’t be done” with “How would that work?”
The heart of invention beats in every corner of our state, from the apartment buildings in Cedar Riverside to the farms and small towns across Minnesota. Let’s make sure these inventors and creative people have the tools they need to make their ideas fly.
Invention and creativity, most importantly, lives in Minnesota’s classrooms, embodied in Minnesota’s outstanding teachers, and nascent in the hearts and minds of the bright-eyed students sitting at their desks. These future inventors, these children, speak hundreds of languages, have rich life experiences, and hold exceptional promise for our state. Let us follow Governor Dayton’s lead, and create a state of Educational Excellence that is worthy of their promise.
Our history of invention is built on our faith that we can do better, we can make progress, we can improve people’s lives. It is our legacy, and our future, best expressed by our old friend Senator Paul Wellstone who said, we all do better when we all do better.
Let’s go out and invent our future, and in so doing build an even better Minnesota.