Remarks As Prepared for Delivery
House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs
Kansas House of Representatives Swearing In Ceremony

Thank, Mr. Speaker.

My beautiful bride of 33 years, Cathie, is here with me today. Cathie, thank you so much for your love and support throughout my 18 years in the Kansas Legislature. She decorates my office, she sends baskets of snacks for me to munch on throughout the session. She is strongly supportive of my hectic schedule. Simply put, I wouldn’t be here today without her.

To the Kansas House Democrats: Thank you for the privilege of serving as your leader. I am humbled and honored by the faith you have placed in me and I pledge to work relentlessly on your behalf for the next two years.

To Representative Merrick: Congratulations on your re-election as Speaker of the Kansas House. This body has tremendous confidence in your leadership abilities, and rest assured that confidence extends beyond your own caucus. Despite our policy disagreements, Mr. Speaker, you have always maintained a friendly rapport with the Minority Leadership team. I look forward to continuing that tradition.

And finally, congratulations to the 20 new members who are taking their oaths of office for the first time today. You are about to embark on a 90-day adventure. By the end, there is so much going on that all the days seem to blur together. But this particular day will stand out in your memory.

It reminds me a little bit of Opening Day in baseball.

Any baseball fan knows that Opening Day is not just “one of 162 games.” The start of a new baseball season means anything is possible. Every team is a contender for the World Series – even if they haven’t been there for 30 years.

And no matter what team you’re cheering for or what stadium you’re sitting in, everyone in a ballpark on Opening Day feels the same sense of community as they celebrate a tradition that is so proudly American. The day is just as much about our rich culture as it is about score of the game.

Now, the work we have before us this year in the Kansas Legislature has far more serious implications than that of our national pastime. The challenges we face cannot be understated.  But before we dive in to the difficult work before us, it is important to embrace our shared heritage as we raise our hands and pledge to serve the people of this great state.

It’s a moment to focus on our shared desire to build a stronger, more prosperous Kansas….not stronger, more prosperous political parties.

And it’s a moment to remember that – no matter what the partisan breakdown of this chamber may be – every person has an equally important role to play.

You know, legislative bodies rarely score well in public opinion polls. I saw one poll last year that ranked Congress lower than lice and root canals.

Ouch.

I believe that the public’s frustration with legislative bodies is just as much about how they treat each other as it is with the legislation they pass.

But we’re Kansans. We do things differently here.

After 18 years in this Chamber, I’ve watched a lot of members come and go. I was certainly closer to some than I was to others. But all of them were my respected colleagues, as are you.

We all have different backgrounds, different priorities, and different ideologies. There is no question that we will vigorously debate the issues, and we will, at times, passionately disagree. And there is no question that the process is always a little bit messy. Actually, more often than not, it’s a lot more than a “little” messy.

But rest assured, this is still the People’s House. And even though it has been decades since the majority party of this chamber shifted, it has been my observation - year after year - that the more important the task at hand, the more likely it is that the 63rd vote will be hard won and uncovered in a surprising place. This is a constant truth that has preserved the importance of compromise and civility in our legislative process.Which is exactly how Democracy should be. And it’s exactly what our constituents expect.

Not all the good ideas are in one party. Not all the good people are in one party. But we are all one Kansas.

We are a people defined by our imagination, by our sense of duty and justice, by our individualism, and by our unrelenting optimism. We’re the kind of folks who roll up our sleeves and get to work when something needs doing – no matter how difficult the task and no matter who made the mess. We’re the kind of people willing to fight for the things we believe. And there’s no question that Kansans’ values and beliefs are solid as a rock.

Kansans have never had much use for national trends. From abolition to women’s suffrage to the end of government-sanctioned racial segregation, we’ve never been afraid to forge our own path. 

But that doesn’t mean we’ve never made mistakes. In fact, in 1855, our first territorial legislature enacted a series of state laws patterned after our neighbor, Missouri. But it didn’t take too long for us to realize that we didn’t want to be like Missouri. By 1858 many of those laws were repealed and replaced with a uniquely Kansas vision.

There are more modern policy decisions that we will be forced to re-evaluate this year if we want to preserve that Kansas vision our forefathers dreamt of on the Kansas prairie over 150 years ago. That vision established world-class public schools and universities, a growing economy, and a vibrant middle class. It is worth protecting.

My friends and colleagues, we have a tough road ahead. Kansas has many challenges to face in the coming months and years. And no matter what party label we wear, we’re all in this together. Good government is a collaborative effort, and I look forward to working with you all as we embark on this journey.

So let us begin. Day One of 90….to the stars through difficulty.

Ad astra per aspera.

God bless you and God bless the great State of Kansas. 

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