Thank you all for coming tonight to Government House. It’s great to see so many old friends and also getting to meet some new friends, and to meet some relatively young entrepreneurs. I say ‘relatively’ young because when I heard Harry say, “The Beach Boys and The Eagles,” I saw them turn to each other and say, ‘Who’s The Beach Boys? Who are The Eagles?’
It’s great to be with you. This is the 25th anniversary of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. I want to congratulate all the past winners and the nominees, many of whom are here today, with us – the 2011 Maryland winners joining us – Andy Franklin, Bill Karpovich, Dr. Leslie Mancuso, Sean Lane, John Hoey, and Alan Snyder.
Look, I had a lot of great remarks here, and most of them were given by Christian Johansson, and also by Harry, and so I’m going to stray off them a little bit.
I really do want to thank you not only for being here tonight but for what you do every day. We are joined by Aris Melissaratos, our former Secretary of Business and Economic Development. One thing that he and Christian Johansson will agree upon is the fact that we are a very, very strong state because of our innovators, because of our entrepreneurs, because of the tremendous amount of intellectual capital, the innovation assets that we have in our State.
And there are two sides to the Maryland character. One of those sides is that we always expect to be #1 in virtually every important category. The other side of the Maryland character is that we have a very easy time becoming very down on ourselves. We sometimes suffer from a pathological modesty. But the truth of the matter is that if you look at the stories that each of you is writing for your own businesses, whether it’s in defense, whether it’s in health, whatever your chosen areas of talent and focus, the fact of the matter is you are making a new world, and you are creating a new story, and you are creating new wealth, you are creating new income, you are creating better futures for all of the people whose talents you have brought together around the idea of what your company can be. It is not inevitable that your company, that your idea, that your business is successful – that’s not inevitable. But the fact of the matter is you have chosen to combine the assets that you found here in this State, with your own imagination and your own creativity to create something new.
Our unemployment rate, even in the midst of this economic downturn is one of the lower unemployment rates in the country. Is that because we’re immune? By no means. There are lots of companies and you know many friends who have gone under. You know lots of businesses that have been lost. But there are also lots of businesses that continue to hire, that continue to create, that continue to find the new deals, the new ideas and the innovations that are necessary in order to move our State forward.
So my real point in speaking tonight is not just to thank you for coming here to celebrate the success of so many great Maryland entrepreneurs, but really to thank you for something even more important, and that is hanging in there in these toughest of times when the deepest colors of our character are truly revealed. You know it’s against the hard days and the dark days and the difficult days and the days of doubt that actually some of the greatest ideas come to fruition and some of the most important leadership comes to the fore. And that’s the leadership each of you is demonstrating in your jobs. Every day, in every way.
We’re doing new things as a State. We are part of a nation. And together, we need to shake ourselves off, get up for greatness, end this sort of national ‘pity party,’ and realize how much we have in one another, how much we have in the talented people and our own talents.
And I’ll leave you with this final thought and it’s this: I’ve had to make some tough decisions, as many of you have had to make, in the course of this economic downturn. One of those was closing down a mental health facility on the Eastern Shore. And before I could close it down, of course, being true to self, I had to go walk those halls, and meet the people, and understand. It’s the same thing many of you do in your own business. And a guy wrote me a letter about his own recovery – he had an addiction as well as some mental health challenges. And I’ll never forget one of the lines that was in his letter. He said, “We can be bitter about what we’ve lost, or we can focus on what we have.”
I chose, and you have chosen, to focus on what we have. We have the ability to create together. This is a great State. There is no State better. And there is no better time for you to show your leadership for the State, for your company and for your country than right now. And I really, really thank you for what you do every day – for Maryland, and for the better future we prefer for our kids. Thanks a lot.