Lt. Gov. Zuckerman: Let’s work hard like sugarmakers


On Jan. 5, I was sworn in as Vermont’s 83rd Lieutenant Governor. I wanted to share with you an abbreviated version of the remarks I gave to the Senate after I officially stepped into this familiar role. By using the Maple tree and syrup as a metaphor for so much that makes Vermont special, I highlighted the issues that impact Vermonters and create a better future for everyone in this state. Thank you for entrusting me to serve in this role again.

“I can think of nothing more iconic to Vermont than the maple tree. The Maple tree brings us together in sugar shacks every spring. Families, friends and neighbors flock together to boil sap, gather at their local ‘sugar on snow’ destination, or to share a refreshing maple creemee during the summer. None of this sweetness would exist without Vermonters working countless hours tapping trees, clearing sugar bushes, running lines, wading thigh-high in snow, gathering and finally boiling the sap. The work of making something so delicious out of the sap of a tree exemplifies the rugged, physical labor that so many Vermonters do regardless of weather, sore muscles, cold fingers or achy joints.

Vermont and the colorful maple trees that light up our hillsides in the fall shine as a beacon of hope to the rest of this country. Folks flock here from all over the nation to experience what we have. They come here seeking a better life. They come here looking for community, safety, the arts, good schools, local food, decency and outdoor adventures. This is a great boon for our state and our workforce.

Maple, in all its glorious forms, is a symbol of the beauty of Vermont. It’s a symbol of hard work, ingenuity, natural beauty and resilience. It’s a symbol of who we are and all that we have. But it also represents all that we are on the precipice of losing.

Increased population numbers lead to increased stresses on our housing options and costs, our roads, our waterways and our natural resources. The task we have of welcoming new families without forcing out the old and of lessening these stressors on our institutions and our environment can seem extremely daunting.

As we gather here today to begin a new biennium, we have many complicated issues before us:

Vermont has generational poverty, children who cannot learn well because they are hungry in their classrooms, a housing crisis, public safety concerns in all corners of the state, a broken healthcare system, and a drug epidemic.

As if all that isn’t enough to contend with, the climate crisis is here now, and it is only going to get worse. Our strong agricultural and forestry sectors are at risk, further threatening our vibrant, local food supplies.

In 50 short years, if we are not careful, the maple tree may not even be able to survive in our state any longer.

As daunting as our task may seem at times, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and, like the maple producers in our state, get to work being real Vermont creative. We are educators, social workers, public safety officials, business owners, scientists, healthcare workers and more. We have real-life experiences beyond our work that give us each unique and informed perspectives. And we have a wealth of outside knowledge and experiences that we can and should access from people around the state.

It is time for Vermonters to make their voices heard. Call your legislators and let them know the issues you face. Every one of us, by virtue of being Vermonters, should take part in the discussion on how we will solve these problems.

The challenge before us is to not become stymied by what may look bleak but to instead, ‘tap into’ your wealth of hidden resources, your areas of expertise and your reserves and to ‘boil your shared ideas down’ into solutions that will work for Vermonters. It’s time to get Vermont-creative, to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work, to be brave enough to let old, tired approaches fall by the wayside and daring enough to imagine and fund innovative new ideas to take their place.”

— David Zuckerman

For complete remarks, visit ltgov.vermont.gov/inaugural-address.

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