Chickashanews.com

Opinion

January 3, 2011

“Our Oklahoma”

Thank you, Oklahoma

CHICKASHA — By Governor Brad Henry

For eight years, it has been my honor to serve as Governor of the Great State of Oklahoma. I want to say thank you to all Oklahomans – thank you for your faith, your support and your trust. It is a rare and amazing blessing to serve our state as Governor and First Lady, and Kim and I thank you for the opportunity to do so.

Together, we weathered some challenging times, but we always met our challenges head on and made the most of our opportunities, emerging stronger and better than before.  

While there is certainly much more work to do in the months and years ahead, I’m proud of all we have accomplished in the last eight years. We have moved Oklahoma forward and built a solid foundation for future growth.

There is nothing more important than a strong public education system, and we did our best to improve schools and expand opportunities for students.  We created the first new revenue sources for education in decades and channeled those funds to classrooms and higher teacher salaries. We increased standards and accountability and enhanced an early childhood education program that is a model for the rest of the world.

With a historic bond issue, we made much-needed capital improvements on state college campuses, and we fully funded the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program, allowing thousands of hard-working Oklahoma students to attend college tuition-free.

 We established the EDGE research endowment to spur job creation and directed record amounts of funding to Oklahoma’s transportation infrastructure, repairing roads and bridges statewide to assist Oklahoma motorists and economic development.

 We drew national attention with Insure Oklahoma – an innovative private-public partnership that has helped small businesses provide health insurance to thousands of employees.  Other states followed our lead again when we cracked down on methamphetamine labs with a landmark law that restricted access to meth ingredients.

We were both tough and smart on crime, expanding drug and mental health courts to punish first-time offenders in a more cost-effective manner while reserving expensive prison cells for the truly dangerous criminals.  And, as our country fought wars overseas, we honored and assisted the members of the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard and their families with Operation Homefront.

While all of these accomplishments are significant, I am most proud of the tone we have set at the State Capitol. There have been disagreements and squabbles – that is simply the noise of democracy – but in the end, Democrats and Republicans never failed to pull together and do what is best for Oklahoma.

 Neither party has all the answers. By listening to each other and building consensus, we can find innovative solutions to the challenges we face. As I said in my first inaugural speech, we must all be Oklahomans first.

And we should be proud to be Oklahomans. Oklahoma is unlike any place on Earth, and I am glad to call it home. With a wealth of scenic beauty and natural resources, with friendly, smart and creative people, our state has all the tools it needs for incredible success.

As I prepare to leave the Governor’s Office, I look forward to the future of our state with anticipation and optimism. Oklahoma, in its second century of statehood, will shine more brightly than ever. God bless you, and God bless Oklahoma.

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