"Thank you all, for the trust you have placed in me. I do not take this responsibility lightly, and I pledge to you that I will give my utmost to be a Speaker for all of Virginia. Before I elaborate on that, I hope you will please allow me to note some matters of personal significance.
"First, I want to thank my lovely wife Jennifer. We first met in 2006 in the temporary Capitol at the former Library of Virginia when she was a young reporter, and just a few years later she agreed to marry me right out here on the front portico of this restored Capitol. She is now mother to our two handsome young boys, who blessedly look like her. I would not be here without her love, patience, and support, and I truly appreciate all that she has done and is about to do with her hands very full over the next sixty days.
"Likewise I want to thank my parents who are here today for the many opportunities they provided for me to pursue a love of the law and public service. My mom was a public school teacher for 34 years who rarely misses one of our streamed sessions and my dad spent career in the poultry which first brought us to Virginia and also spent many years running our sheriff’s auxiliary program where he helped train several generations of deputy sheriffs. I thank you both for your love and support.
"My in-laws are here with us as well. I want to thank them for all they do to help us and for all the times they are going to watch these boys in the next couple of years that we haven’t talked to them about yet.
"I want to thank the people of the 15th District for their continued faith in me. I wouldn’t be up here right now if they didn’t trust me to be their Delegate. It wasn’t that long ago that as a much younger and much greener local GOP Committee Chair and assistant prosecutor I got a call from my predecessor’s aide telling me that his boss was going to the floor to announce his retirement and I had ten minutes to decide what I was going to do with the rest of my life. That November I asked the people of the district for their votes, and they’ve stood with me ever since. I hope I have made you all proud today, and I pledge that I will continue to represent you well here in Richmond.
"By the way, my predecessor’s aide who called me that day later became my aide for ten more years. Gary Frink and his wife Jeanne both worked hard to help me learn how to be a good legislator and I’m sorry that they were unable to join us here today but I know they are watching. I thank them for their faithfulness and support as well.
"I also see two of my predecessors here in the chamber from whom I learned so much. Mister Speakers Howell and Cox, thank you for the many opportunities you gave me.
"I’m proud to say that I am from Shenandoah County, but I am not the first Speaker of the House to have that honor. In 1877, Henry Clay Allen stood before this body as Speaker. A Circuit Court judge, and former U.S. District Attorney, Speaker Allen also attended the University of Virginia and studied law in his father’s office.
"Today I’m proud to have his great-grandson and attorney William B. Allen III here in the chamber along with his wife Cindy. Billy is a friend, fellow member of the local bar, mentor, and occasional co-counsel. Billy is also a progressive Democrat. Thank you for being here today. I’d like to think your great grandfather would be proud of both of us.
"By the way, Billy’s son Bland and I graduated from high school together and he is now a Lt. Colonel in the United States Marine Corp. He is decidedly NOT a progressive Democrat.
"Finally, today I had the honor of my former pastor Paige Bowman joining us here in the chamber to pray for us today. When the clerk’s office asked who I wanted to offer the opening prayer, I immediately knew That I wanted to invite God’s blessing, wisdom and providence by seeking out the man who baptized me when I was just fifteen years old. Thank you for blessing me with your presence and your words here today.
"I want to thank the members of my caucus for their hard work over the past two years, and their continued trust in me. It has been a long road, and I’m honored to have walked it with you all. I would be remiss if I did not welcome our new members. You are now part of the oldest legislative body in the new world and part of the history of this incredible Commonwealth of Virginia. Let it sink in. Welcome, and congratulations.
"Standing here, at this dais, is a humbling experience. From here, your can see more than just the faces of your colleagues. You can see 400-plus years of history. Ours is an awesome responsibility.
"Over the next two years, we will do the people’s business in the light of day, and address the issues they told us they were concerned about as we asked them for their votes.
"We will make sure that our children get the best education possible, in the best facilities possible, and that their parents are empowered with the tools and choices to see their kids can live up to their fullest God-given potential.
"And we will work to foster innovation in education. There’s an old joke about how many Virginians it takes to change a light bulb. Four. One to change the bulb, and three to talk about how good the old one was. Working together, we can open the door for new ideas that will give our students the same incredible opportunities regardless of their zip codes or how much money their parents make.
"We will also work to once again make our communities safer, and to end the loss of young lives in our cities to senseless violence.
"We will strive to grow our economy so that our friends and neighbors can get good-paying jobs that will let them provide a better life for their children than they themselves had growing up, to help them keep more of what they earn and to reduce the growing financial pressures placed upon them.
"It is my hope and intention that we will engage in spirited debate on this floor, and we will return to the inherently deliberative nature of this body. That we will argue our cases zealously but with mutual respect and proper order. I would hope all want the same things: a better future for our children, more prosperous families and communities, and a Commonwealth where everyone can live in relative safety. We just often disagree on how best to get there.
"Once again, I pledge to you to be a Speaker for all Virginians, and for all the members of this body, not just my caucus and my party. My door will always be open to each of you to talk about how we can best accomplish great things for Virginia and her citizens.
"Now, let’s get to work."