Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal. The author of this post is Theresa Opeka.
Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson said that he doesn't consider himself a politician but rather a public servant, as he delivered the Republican response to Gov. Roy Cooper's final State of the State address on Monday night.
"You see, I'm not a politician who talks about the issues facing our state as someone who doesn't understand them,"
he said. "In fact, I don't consider myself a politician at all. What I am is a public servant who knows what the people of North Carolina are going through and wants to serve them and will fight for them like my own personal journey."
In a delivery that had tones of a campaign trail speech, Robinson talked about his personal story of growing up as one of ten children in a home where his alcoholic father often beat his mother. When his father died while Robinson was in the 5th grade, his mother took a job as a custodian instead of going on welfare. He says it was from her example that he learned the value of hard work.
"She was my hero,"
he said. "She encouraged me to dream and told me that with faith, hard work, and perseverance, I could achieve anything."
Robinson said he can relate to every North Carolinian who has ever faced adversity. He lost two jobs to NAFTA, eventually lost his house and car, and was forced decades ago to declare bankruptcy.
He said he persevered and leaned on his faith. He eventually served in the military, worked in manufacturing, served as a general manager in a restaurant, and owned a small business with his wife of over 30 years.
He also shared that he walked across the stage a few weeks ago at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro after earning his degree 30 years after beginning college.
Robinson touched on legislative issues also, calling the General Assembly's economic policies "common-sense"
measures that ensure people keep more of their hard-earned money.
"That fiscal responsibility resulted in historic economic growth the Republican-led General Assembly turned a state that was billions of dollars in debt and struggling financially into an economic powerhouse,"
he said. "North Carolina is the number one state in the nation to do business."
Robinson said that if Democrats have their way, the state will go "backward,"
with government control, high taxes, and attacks on personal freedoms, as in the shutdowns during the pandemic, when businesses, schools, and churches were shuttered. Following the Biden Administration's tax and spend philosophy, he concluded, is hurting North Carolinians and will continue to hurt them with high prices of gas and groceries. Instead of higher taxes, people need further tax cuts in personal income taxes.
He also said that teachers have one of the most important jobs in society and should be paid accordingly.
"We need to quit asking teachers to be police officers, social workers, and parents,"
Robinson said. "Their job is to teach, plain and simple, and what should they be teaching our students? They should be teaching our students how to think, not what to think, ensuring that personal or political ideologies stay out of the classroom and then we get back to the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic."
Robinson called recent public school test scores "unacceptable"
referring to a fall study that found the share of North Carolina eighth-graders who lack basic skills expanded to 34% in reading and 39% in math after pandemic shutdowns. He called for more to be done with school safety, noting that it isn't a Republican or Democrat issue.
He said he was criticized during his first few months in office as a State Board of Education member when he evaluated the state's proposed K-12 social studies standards and opposed the ideologically driven materials.
"Because of this, I, the first black lieutenant governor of North Carolina, was called a white supremacist and depicted as a Ku Klux Klan member by one of the largest media outlets in the state,"
Robinson noted. "That did not deter me. Instead, it fueled me to fight harder for our students."
He praised the legislature's work to secure $11.6 million in funding for apprenticeship programs for the rural parts of the state, and growth in trade and technical programs that provide certification in careers like electricians and plumbers, where many in those professions are aging out.
One thing that Robinson agreed on with Cooper is the need for high-speed internet across the country. He acknowledged the Cooper Administration and the legislature's ongoing work to help it become a reality.
Robinson said those in law enforcement aren't getting the respect they deserve, and it is taking a toll.
"I see elected officials abandoning the men and women of law enforcement at the first sign of trouble and I'm furious when they follow narratives instead of following facts,"
he said. "Elected officials should make sure police have what they need and encourage them to do their jobs and be proactive in fighting crime. That's not the case today. We see law enforcement officers today demonized and vilified, and our communities are paying the price."
Robinson wrapped up his response by challenging lawmakers to go beyond politics as normal and chided some of the media who are only interested in a headline that will grab attention instead of reporting the facts.
"In our society today, we are so divided, and thoughtful discussion is often replaced with tweets, sound bites, and heated rhetoric,"
he said. "When you're sworn in, they don't give you a manual or a guide for dummies, so to speak, on how to serve or face the challenges of public pressure. They don't teach you to handle a media that's more interested in the gotcha game instead of fairly reporting the news."
He said that you try your best, and if you make a mistake, which he said he has, you learn from it and work hard to do even better.
"We must drop our weapons of political war,"
Robinson said. "We must work hard on behalf of all North Carolinians we must come together to work on real solutions to the real problems that we face to overcome the challenges as we always have and to celebrate our victories and work for a better future."