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January 3: Governors’ Speeches to the Legislature

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Governors throughout North Dakota history have given speeches to the Legislature to outline their priorities and proposals and to describe the state's outlook: a “state of the state,” it's been called. Those speeches are often given around this date, including in times of war, prosperity, gloom and uncertainty. Here’s a sampling:

In 1909, in a sign of how young North Dakota was developing as a state, Governor John Burke raised such issues as appointing state lawmakers for newly created counties, designing a state flag, encouraging immigrants to move here, and stamping out tuberculosis.

In 1919, Following the political dominance of the populist Nonpartisan League, Governor Lynn Frazier told the Legislature to “remember that you represent a progressive people of a progressive state. You are expected to enact definite, progressive legislation that has been approved at two primary and two general elections. Our voters are giving more calm, sane, deliberate study to their own public affairs than ever before.” His speech was followed by lawmakers honoring former President Theodore Roosevelt, who had died days earlier and who had ranched and hunted near Medora in the 1880s.

In 1931, days after the state Capitol burned down, new Governor George Shafer addressed the Legislature in the Bismarck City Auditorium, which served as the House chamber. Shafer proposed the state “plan to build a comparatively small and relatively inexpensive but well-appointed Capitol building.” The new Capitol was completed in 1934.

In 1945 during World War Two, new Governor Fred Aandahl reminded lawmakers “the war is not over yet,” with uncertain times still ahead despite recent years of successful big crops. He said: “Each day that the war continues the price of victory grows higher and higher in abnormal economic misadjustments, in mounting governmental indebtedness, and in human distractions, disabilities and death. But out of it all should come a people unified in purpose by the trials of war.”

In 1955, Governor Norman Brunsdale told the Legislature of problems facing the state that were “more acute than any that have preceded it since the beginning of World War Two,” such as agricultural woes and scarce funding for highway improvements. The governor also said that despite the Korean conflict’s armistice, “clouds of war still hang over the world.”

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Sources:

  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1909, January 7. Pages 3, 6: Gov. Burke’s message to the N.D. legislature
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1919, January 9. Page 1: Legislature takes recess to honor T.R.
  • Jamestown Weekly Alert. 1919, January 9. Page 1: Progressive legislation is urged by Governor Frazier in inaugural address to law makers at capital
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1931, January 6. Page 7: Rosholt senate secretary
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1931, January 8. Pages 1, 15: Officials formally inaugurated; Pages 12-13: Full text of Governor George F. Shafer’s address to Legislature
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1945, January 4. Page 3: Aandahl and Moses addresses to N.D. legislature
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1955, January 5. Page 10: Here is text of Governor Brunsdale’s message to legislature
  • Summary of North Dakota History - Nonpartisan League: history.nd.gov/ndhistory/npl.html Davis. J. 2013, April 15. Capitol offices. Prairie Public: news.prairiepublic.org/show/dakota-datebook-archive/2022-05-29/capitol-offices

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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