Inauguration Speech, Attorney General Dave Yost

Inauguration Speech
Attorney General Dave Yost
January 14, 2019

I’d like to thank Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor for administering the oath of office. I admire her unblemished record of public service and integrity to Ohio.

Honored to be here today at the beautiful Lincoln Theatre, which a few short years ago was literally nothing more than a ruin…not unlike our nation’s political life. A few leaders banded together to save it and restore it to the gem it is today, and at their forefront were my dear friends Larry and Donna James, who are here today. Thank you!

So grateful to be here with my family, especially my mom and dad, Elizabeth and David Yost—they taught me my values and taught me by example about the dignity and discipline of work as they built a business from nothing to success, creating hundreds of jobs and providing for our family.

Of course, I would not be here without the woman I affectionately call the Princess Bride, our master of ceremonies today…my partner of 38 years, Darlene.

Also very grateful to my campaign team, Kevin Servick and Amy Natoce and Carlo LoParo and always Matt Borges, the wise man of Ohio politics. They’re the best in Ohio, bar none.

And sadly, one person who I wish could be here is not—former Columbus Mayor Buck Rinehart, who somehow saw the potential in an undisciplined and ignorant newspaper reporter to become something more.

He taught me about vision and tenacity and boldness, and he was the reason I went to law school. We miss you, Mayor.

Special thanks to everyone who helped on this long journey—volunteers who knocked on doors, who made phone calls and dropped literature, my friends who guided me…the thousands of people who wrote checks to help pay for it all…although it was at times a lonely journey, I most assuredly did not make it alone.

And I am grateful to God, who gives me the breath in my lungs and sustains me through the darkest nights. I am not a self-made man; it is He Who is making me.

The attorney general is the chief law officer of the state of Ohio. This morning, as we celebrate the peaceful transition of power, there is a sad remembrance going on in another part of the state.

Colerain Township Police Officer Dale Woods will be laid to rest this morning. He died in the line of duty moments after saving a woman’s life, pulling her from a burning car.

Officer Woods, 46, ended his watch January 7 and leaves behind his wife and three children. I invite you to join me in a moment of silence to commemorate his answer to the call of duty.

I would like to speak to you briefly this morning about my vision for Ohio and the role of the attorney general. And because context is everything, I’d like to begin by framing my remarks with this video.

I love the music behind the video we just watched. We’ve all heard it before—it’s been used in many times and places…at the memorial service after September 11, and notably every four years at the Olympics.

It’s called “Fanfare for the Common Man,” and it might be Aaron Copland’s finest work—noble, uplifting…just listening to it, the blood surges through our bodies; it electrifies the very air…we stand taller, we are ready to dare more greatly.

It wouldn’t have existed but for Ohio—Cincinnati, Ohio, to be precise.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony commissioned 18 composers to create fanfares to open concerts in 1942 and 1943, and lift the spirits of the nation. As sometimes happens in acts of public service, there would be no money for the writing.

The other commissioned works were unremarkable and are never performed today. 

But Copland’s powerful composition…”Fanfare for the Common Man”…I chose it to begin our morning together deliberately…because of a disagreement.

You see…there is no such thing as a common man. Or a common woman.

Lincoln once joked that the Lord must have a special fondness for common-looking people, because He made so many of us. But in his heart, Lincoln understood something deeper.

As he said in his address at Gettysburg, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”

It is the rare thing that we remember.

It is the rare thing that is prized—think of a one-of-a-kind gem, large, perfectly cut, capturing the light and making it dance. Uncommon.

Each person is like that…rare, unique, one-of a kind…priceless. Every one of them. Not just the rulers and the elites and the people who get written about…every single person lives a life unlike any other.

I’ve met the people illustrated by that video. Their stories brace my mind and ignite my imagination…tenacity in times of trouble, courage in crisis, achievement and redemption and love. They are unique because of their humanity, their capacity to climb and to build, to rescue and to create, to rise.

This is not a rhetorical flag to be hoisted for politically convenient moments. It is the bedrock of our legal system, and it is the way I understand the world in my heart. It drives my public service and will inform my time as attorney general…let me unpack what I mean.

Each of us at law has equal value, rich or poor, president or pauper. 

It’s why Justice wears a blindfold—identity before the law is irrelevant. 

We all enter the rooms of justice as we entered the world, and as we shall leave it. 

Whatever power, whatever riches, whatever acclaim…we brought none of it into the world, and we will take none of it with us when we leave.

That’s the theory. But in a justice system run by passionate, flawed human beings, the building as built doesn’t always look like the drawings.

The attorney general’s role—my role, for the next four years—is to push the system toward that ideal, where every person stands on the same level floor.

Peggy Noonan, one of America’s most gifted observers, wrote a couple of years ago that the most critical division in America is not between left and right, or even “haves” and “have-nots,” but between the protected and the unprotected.

Many of the people in this room are “the protected.” They have some financial resources and some connectedness to decision-makers…their place in society gives them a degree of insulation.

When the rules change, when public decisions create uncertainty or disruption, the protected have ways to navigate and to cope.

The unprotected are those who lack those resources, and that connectedness.

When uncertainty and disruption occur because of public decision making, they feel the bite. The unprotected often have calluses on their hands and steel in their shoes.

But the unprotected also have small businesses…the florist who barely covers costs, the excavating contractor who prays for a good year so he can replace his backhoe, the restaurant owner who struggles to pay both the waitstaff and the taxman, one bad month away from losing it all.

They may be in business, but they do not have lobbyists. They cannot afford to take the time to be involved in the government—and when government causes disruption or uncertainty, they are left to try to make the best of it. They, too, are the unprotected.

The single mom who struggles to pay both child care and rent. The senior whose medicine costs more every year but whose income does not. The unprotected.

There’s more than one reason why people are unprotected, but a major one is the lack or misapplication of the rule of law.

That lofty phrase—”the rule of law”—means something pretty simple: the same rules for everybody, applied evenly and justly. The rule of law constrains both politicians and predators in the marketplace…it limits both the rich and the mob…the violently powerful and the powerfully violent.

The rule of law is the shield that should protect the unprotected and the sword to punish the evil doer.

But too often, the rule of law is bent out of shape to become the plaything of the clever—used by as a sword of oppression or a shield for the evil and the corrupt…my friends, these things ought not to be.

The role of the attorney general—the role I take up here today—is to protect the unprotected. Against crime and violence, yes…but also in the air we breathe and the water we drink…in the marketplace and in our neighborhoods…protect the unprotected.

And it is the rule of law that is both sword and shield.

I am not the lawyer for the politicians. I did not come here to serve the bureaucrats, or the regulators.

I represent the people of Ohio.

The politicians and bureaucrats and regulators work for the people I represent…those 11 million uncommon people who are Ohio, who build America and make our nation great.

Long ago, fanfares were for kings…a mighty blast of brass horns to signal the entrance of the sovereign and the elite.

Copland seized the music of kings to recognize the uncommon people…people made noble not by an accident of birth, but by the way they live their lives and serve their families and communities.

Though the title of Mr. Copland’s composition rings a bit hollow in my ear, perhaps we do not disagree so much after all, he and I.

The people he praised with his language of the heart are the same people I am here to serve. Each of them….so help me, God.