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January 11, 1999


SPRINGFIELD -- George H. Ryan was inaugurated today as the 39th governor of Illinois, building on a 30-year career in public service with a vow to work "with everyone who wants to make progress and to build society."

Corinne G. Wood was also inaugurated as the state's 43rd lieutenant governor and the first woman to hold the second highest office in Illinois government.

Ryan, of Kankakee, took the oath of office during a noontime ceremony at Springfield's Prairie Capital Convention Center. Accompanied by his wife of 43 years, Lura Lynn, and the couple's six children, Ryan took the oath of office with his hand resting on a bible that has been in the First Lady's family for more than a century.

In his inaugural address, Ryan spoke of the need to end the political partisanship which divides Illinois and keeps government from serving the people.

"We have lost so much in our political process. There is too much pettiness, mean spiritedness and partisanship," Ryan said. "It must stop or we risk losing qualified people who want to serve in government."

Ryan added that his style of governing is one of inclusion and addition:

"My basic instinct is to be open to everyone; to listen; to learn and to help where I can," he said. "Compromise is not a bad word. Government cannot operate under the watchword of 'change for change's sake.'

"That makes no sense. Nor can government operate by holding back the hands of time and the call for progress. That makes no sense, either. Society needs advocates for all kinds of causes. The marketplace of ideas will sort them out. But we also need people who can work out issues and offer solutions."

The governor said he is not afraid of being labeled a "dealmaker," because deals are the lifeblood of the political process:

"I'll be an advocate. I'll try to formulate compromise and a deal," Ryan said. "If something doesn't work out, it will not be because I have not tried. I fully intend to do my part and I expect that in return, every person will lend their support. I look forward to working with everyone who wants to make progress and to build society."

Ryan pledged to work with Republicans, Democrats, Independents, moderates, conservatives and liberals in all parts of the state on the challenges that face Illinois.

He renewed his pledge dedicate 51 percent of all new state revenue dollars to education and workforce training to help reduce class sizes, improve reading scores, boost high school graduation rates and to equip higher education for the 21st Century.

He said that on his first full day in office he would instruct the secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation to immediately begin work on a solution to the Chicago area's biggest traffic nightmare -- the so-called "Hillside Strangler", the confluence of the Tri-State Tollway, the East-West Tollway and the Eisenhower Expressway.

He expressed his continued support for a new third airport in Northeastern Illinois to help revitalize economically-depressed areas of the state and to help relieve air traffic concerns for communities around O'Hare International Airport.

Ryan, a hunter and firearm owner, also pledged to pass a tough "15-20-LIFE" law that automatically extends the prison terms of felons convicted of using a gun in felony crimes: 15 years for showing a gun, 20 years for shooting a gun and up to life in prison for causing bodily harm with a gun.

"This violence must stop and I expect all the handgun groups, the domestic violence prevention people and yes, the NRA, to join me in this fight," Ryan said. "This is a crusade against senseless violence and killing. We can make a difference, and we will."

Ryan took the oath of office from an old friend, Judge Saul Epton of Chicago, a retired judge of the Cook County Circuit Court who has sworn Ryan into statewide office on four previous occasions. Assisting Epton was Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles E. Freeman of Chicago.

Wood, of Lake Forest, was administered the oath of office by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Ann McMorrow of Chicago.

Ryan has served as a member and later chairman of the Kankakee County Board, as a state representative, Illinois House Republican Leader, Speaker of the Illinois House, Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State.


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