Remarks as prepared
Delivered on Tuesday, September 19, 2023
Thank you, Ziad – and thank you for being such an incredible inspiration to not just our young
people, but to me as well. And I want to thank all of our incredible leaders gathered here today.
This is a group that doesn’t just read about history, you make it.
This is a group that is willing to break rules and take risks.
And standing up here, I might be feeling a little bit older than I normally do... but I also feel like
one of you. Because I stand behind this podium as probably one of the most improbable
governors you’ve ever met.
I am the son of an immigrant single mom who didn't get her first job that gave her benefits until I
was 14 years old.
I felt handcuffs on my wrists by the time I was 11.
Before running for governor, I’d never held elected office in my life.
And today, I stand before you as the first Black governor in the history of the State of Maryland
and only the third Black governor ever elected in the history of the United States.
My election was improbable. When I took office, I didn’t want to confine myself to the politics
of the possible.
One of the challenges I knew we had to tackle was the growing divisions in our politics that we
see every day:
I’m talking about a politics where people are more interested in scoring points than solving
I’m talking about a politics where people retreat to their partisan corners instead of sitting down
and having a real conversation.
I’m talking about a politics where, here in the U.S. and around the globe, powerful people are
trying to take advantage of in-fighting and tribalism for their own gain.
The question is: How do we come together again at this moment we find ourselves in?
And my answer to you today is this: We need to focus on nurturing a society that serves.
And for me, this is very personal.
My journey has been defined by service: From my service in the United States military leading
soldiers in combat; to my work as a social entrepreneur in Baltimore City, helping underserved
students succeed in college; to my tenure as CEO of one of the largest poverty- fighting
organizations in the United States.
Service allowed me to meet people I’d otherwise never have the opportunity to know – in parts
of the country and the world that I never knew existed.
I’ve learned that people who serve together often stick together – regardless of background; or
income; or political ideology.
And so at this moment, at a time when people's response to the political toxicity is to lean out,
I'm asking you to lean in.
At this moment, when the instinct is to retreat, I want you to step forward.
Engage in civic life. Engage in service. Because service will save us.
I have made it my mission as governor to make sure that in Maryland, we are the state that
We’re going to give new opportunities to engineers who want to build seawalls that will protect
our communities from the impacts of climate change.
We’re going to give new opportunities to lawyers ready to donate their time to give formerly
incarcerated individuals a fresh start at life.
We’re going to give new opportunities to social entrepreneurs who want to build a more just and
more equitable future.
And of all the people we want to recruit, our greatest asset is the people we’re here to celebrate:
The resilient generation.
And I am very proud to say that Maryland is now the first state in the United States of America
to offer a paid year service for high school graduates – to provide every young person in our state
with the chance to serve.
After high school, students can go to college – or trade school – or join the workforce – or join
Well in Maryland, we now have another option: You can choose to serve the state.
We aren’t telling our young people HOW to serve. We’re just asking them to serve.
You can serve in conservation; you can serve in education; you can serve in housing; you can
serve our veterans; you can serve in re-entry work for folks returning from incarceration – it’s
We just want to offer people the chance to make our state better; give young people a pathway to
do something that makes their heart beat a little bit faster; and bring people together to bridge
It’s a model that we know works, because it’s a model we’ve seen in action. Thirty years ago,
President Clinton created AmeriCorps. And for three decades, that program has helped bring us
together as Americans and public servants.
Now, we’re working to build on that legacy in Maryland. And I’ve been deeply inspired by the
applicants in our first cohort:
Marylanders like Alex from Cecil County, who wants to attend a four-year college out of state
but wants to serve her community before taking that next step.
Marylanders like John from Baltimore, who graduated high school but dropped out of college
and wants to gain the skills he needs to get a good-paying job without a four-year degree.
Marylanders like Connie from Frederick, who works as a checkout clerk at a local grocery store
and wants to change her career trajectory.
These are the stories of young people ready to help us build a better state – and build it in
I want Maryland to be the best place in the world to change the world: Where everyone can
participate in the movement we’re building – where no problem is too big to solve, because we’ll
be working together.
And so my message to the Clinton Global Initiative community is this:
Come make the world a better place with us.
In Maryland, we’re doing things differently – we’re moving with a different set of ideas – we’re
ignoring the political talking points – and we are just getting started.
And when the next chapter in the story of our state and our country and our world is written, I
want your hands on the pen. I want your ink on the page. I want your names on the cover.
Because together, I know we can write a story unlike anything anyone has ever seen.
Thank you so much.