There were many reasons to celebrate the inauguration of Governor Janet Mills on Wednesday evening, January 2. The fact that she is the first woman to hold the post is already an important part of Maine’s story and history.
For anyone who cares deeply about protecting Maine’s environment, Governor Mills’ speech has further reason to celebrate. She delivered a forceful call for urgent action on climate change. In fact, it was the leading policy proposal in her inaugural speech.
“Today our connection to the land is endangered. After 80 years of studies that carbon emissions are destroying our environment, the danger is now at our doorstep…Climate change is threatening our jobs, damaging our health and attacking our historic relationship to the land and sea. Tonight, I say enough. Enough with the studies, talk and debate. It’s time to act!”
We’ll need Governor Mills’ leadership to get our elected officials focused on climate solutions that work for all Maine people. I found it exhilarating to hear Governor Mills detail solutions that align with many of the priorities for climate action our team here at the Natural Resources Council of Maine already plans to work on with the Maine Legislature and the Mills Administration. These are issues that will make a real difference for people’s health and for the state’s economy.
“Our new Administration will embrace clean energy; change our modes of transportation; weatherize homes and businesses, and reach a goal of 50 percent of our electricity coming from Maine renewable resources. These actions will create good-paying jobs, preserve our environment, and welcome young people to build a green future here in Maine.”
Her speech also included a solar energy teaser that we’ll be sure to track from the windows of our office in Augusta: Mills promised that in the next few weeks, she will have solar panels installed on the roof of the Blaine House. You can see NRCM’s rooftop solar panels from the third floor of the State House, and now you will be able to see those on the Blaine House, too.
Governor Mills spoke eloquently about how Maine’s land and waters define our way of life and the places we call home. It was a potent reminder of why we are engaged in this work to protect Maine’s environment for now and for future generations.
“The Sandy River connects my town to those up and downstream. We become one with the rest of Maine linked by water, woods, and land. Former Governor Joshua Chamberlain described this link back in 1876:
‘This great and wide sea…these beaches and bays and harbors…these things invite the brave, the noble…Thought comes here and dwells…They will love the land, and the land will give back strength.’”
It was particularly refreshing to experience a ceremony that reflected the diversity, cultures, and creativity that make Maine so strong. We know that environmental pollution often harms those that are most vulnerable and that our solutions must be solutions that work for everyone, in every corner of the state and from all walks of life.
“Our diversity is a virtue – one that we should harness to advance good public debate and good public policy. We welcome the voices of newcomers to the public conversation – the young, the immigrants, people of different cultures, people of color, people of different orientations. All are important members of the Maine family.”
Finally, even though having a woman in the highest position in the state — and 72 women in the Legislature — may at some point become as common as “drinking milk and eating toast,” as Mills said, we have traveled long and hard to get this far, and there is a long way to go across the nation and the planet to truly achieve gender parity. “As Maine goes” is an old adage that, I hope, will hold true in regard to this kind of leadership, as our daughters and granddaughters—look at their prospects for the future.
I am incredibly optimistic about the coming year because of everything I saw and heard in this celebration of our new governor. I am so glad to feel “welcomed home” again!
—Lisa Pohlmann, NRCM CEO
Watch the full inaugural address by Maine Governor Janet T. Mills: