Governor delivered his final State of State speech at Otterbein University in Westerville on Tuesday night.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich favored philosophy over policy — and politics — in his final State of the State address Tuesday evening, saying he has done the best he can while vowing to “run through the tape” before he departs early next year.
With references to philosophers and theologians, the second-term Republican dwelled on values such as love, humility, forgiveness, compassion, responsibility and justice, saying they have guided him and can be embraced by more Ohioans to help improve their state.
“I think because we have been faithful to practicing these values, I believe the state of Ohio is stronger today than it has been in a generation,” Kasich said to a crowd of more than 900 people in the Fritsche Theatre at Otterbein University in his hometown of Westerville. “Ohio is back and Ohio is strong again.”
Kasich rapidly painted the picture of his first seven-plus years in office as seeing improvements in job creation, mental health and developmental disability treatment, reduced prison populations and efforts to battle Ohio’s deadly opioid crisis, human trafficking and other social ills.
He called on Ohioans to help others. “We need to have a more permanent compass,” he said. “Everyone deserves respect regardless of race, creed, appearance, our station in life. We all deserve respect because we were all created, made in the image of our creator.”
“The worst thing in life is not losing an election; the worst thing in life is not serving others … When we slow down and listen, we can do better, can’t we?” Kasich asked during his 43 minutes of remarks. “My hope is in the better part of each of us … we don’t have to go win gold medals, we can do little things that matter.”
Kasich admitted he was a flawed man, but said he has worked hard to help Ohioans since the days as a young Ohio Senate intern when he would sneak looks into the governor’s office in the Statehouse. “One night, I went down to the door and I looked and my name was on it. What a journey …”
“All I’ve ever tried to do was to lift myself as far as I could go to meet the honor of that office, to lift myself to reach a little higher so I could be worthy of it … I have just done everything I can do, I’ve done my best,” said Kasich, who made no references to his potential presidential aspirations in 2020.
Minority Democrats said they heard inspiring words from the governor, but they want to see more action in areas where the state continues to under perform the nation, including infant mortality and job growth.
“We all heard some very uplifting commentary and inspiring words, and I thought that was a build to talk about some more complicated policy issues like common-sense gun safety issues,” said House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton. “That just did not happen. It feels like a loss.”
The speech had some really nice thoughts, Strahorn said, he did not hear about passing policies to create the kind of opportunities and innovation that once attracted people to the state.
"That’s just not happening today. We’re leading in all the wrong ways,” he said.
“What we’re doing in Ohio may be working for some corporations and it may be working for some rich people, but there’s an awful lot of Ohioans, despite what the governor said, are being left behind."
House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, came into office the same year as Kasich, and the two will leave together at the end of the year.
“We came into a wave of issues that was almost overwhelming,” he said. “As the governor leaves and as I end my term in the speakership, we have left Ohio in a far better place than we found it.”
With a void of policy discussion from Kasich, Republicans didn’t offer much reaction specific to the speech, though Rosenberger said he liked the governor’s message. “We have to continue to look beyond ourselves, as Ohio has been able to prove time and time again, to be able to do things that will help uplift all Ohioans.”
While the large majority of his speech was devoted to faith and values, Kasich did deliver two nuggets of news.
A $112 million behavioral health facility will rise to replace the 1977-era Twin Valley Behavioral Healthcare campus on the Hilltop, the busiest state mental facility in the state. The new building will improve care for more Ohioans, Kasich’s administration said.
The Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area, named for Ohio State’s University gold-medal track and field star, eventually will occupy 13,000 acres on AEP-reclaimed former coal mining land in Morgan and Muskingum counties. Kasich, an Ohio State graduate, chose the name for the park, which he said will become the state's largest.
Kasich presented his “Governor’s Courage Awards” to:
n Nina Schubert, a Kent State University freshman from Mentor, for confronting her mental illness and establishing a campus organization — the Nightingale Project — to promote understanding and help others.
n Mikah Frye, a 10-year-old from Ashland County, surrendered his grandmother’s offer of $300 for a Christmas gaming system, asking that the money instead be spent on blankets for the homeless. He was homeless early in his life.
n Chris Hole, a hospice nurse from Miamisburg, treated the injured and loaded them into vehicles in Las Vegas after a gunman rained bullets onto an outdoor concert crowd, killing 58 and wounding hundreds