JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri must make "a fresh start at a difficult time for our state," new Gov. Mike Parson said Monday, in his first address to a joint-session of the Legislature.
Parson's speech came just 10 days after he took over as governor, following Eric Greitens' June 1 resignation.
"During this time, we have witnessed politics at its worst and at its best," Parson said. "We have been divided, and we have been united.
"Missouri has risen to the occasion, as we always do. Today is a time for a fresh start for our state and to recommit ourselves (to) work together for a better Missouri."
The governor said, "We persevered because our institutions are strong, and the people of Missouri are stronger."
He noted Missouri government has a long history, with more than 7,000 people who have been elected to a state legislative or constitutional office, and "most were not looking to build a career (or to get) fame or glory or notoriety."
Parson served six years in the Missouri House and another six years in the Senate, before becoming lieutenant governor in January 2017.
He reminded his former colleagues that few people today know the names of the state's officials from 100 years ago, and a century from now, "long after each of us has departed from this earth, these seats will continue to exist, held by men and women whose grandparents have not even been born."
Parson added: "Make no mistake: the offices we now hold are far bigger than any one of us."
What makes government work well, he said, is following the responsibilities "given us by our forefathers" in the federal Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
"Our job — the job of each and every one of us — is to continue that tradition," the governor said, "which is the framework to be able to live the American Dream and ensure it exists for the next generation."
He added: "We must be careful not to erode the public's trust in our system of government, for short-term personal gain.
"Most of all, we must always remember that we serve the people and the state of Missouri — not the other way around."
Parson's 12-minute speech — including 11 interruptions for applause and standing ovations that were 2 minutes of that time — was the last event of a special session lawmakers called themselves into, to consider possible punishments, up to and including impeachment, for Greitens.
But the session's purpose ended with Greitens' June 1 resignation.
Although Parson did not mention Greitens by name, nor discuss the specifics of any of the issues that led to the turmoil in the past few months, the governor said: "Much of the political turmoil that has engulfed our state is a result of these truths being forgotten."
Still, he said, watching the Legislature work this year, "I have been impressed by the care, prudence and professionalism you have shown as you have sought the truth.
"I am in awe, once again, of the fortitude of our state's institutions."
Parson will be Missouri's chief executive for at least the next 2 years, and said: "As we move forward, together, I pledge that I will spend every day working to make our state stronger and more prosperous.
"I promise that the welfare of the people will be my guiding principle and sole consideration. And I will never forget never forget - that public service is, first and foremost, is about serving Missourians.
"I hope that each of you will join me."
State Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, has been in the Legislature since starting in the House in 2009.
She said Parson gave "a speech from the heart."
"I actually thought this was the best governor's speech I've heard since I've been here," Riddle said. "I love his message of unity.
"I believe he was motivational in the things that he said, not only to legislators, but to everybody."
Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, added: "I think it was a unifying message (that would) let us all move on.
"I think he covered everything most of us wanted to hear."