Gov. John Kasich gave his final State of the State speech Tuesday night, at Otterbein University in his hometown of Westerville. He didn’t unveil any new programs but he did talk about values.
Kasich’s State of the State speech was political potpourri. He didn’t talk about any one subject for more than a few minutes. He quoted philosophers and theologians from Plato to Martin Luther. He talked about secular humanism and religion and its role in his life. He was reflective.
“I’ve just done everything that I can do. I’ve done my best. We have to run through the tape. Make no mistake about it. We’re not quitting until we turn off the lights because we have so many things to do,” Kasich said.
Kasich was, at times, hard to follow. He talked about national concerns, and said Ohioans need to work together to improve communities and the state, sometimes using phrases he’s said over and over.
“Live a life a little bigger than ourselves. And you know what it’s all about. It’s human connectiveness, that we are connected to one another. When the police officers in Westerville were killed, then somebody who lived up near Lake Erie lost a little bit of themselves. When a little boy drifts ashore on a raft from a foreign country and dies on the beach, we all lose a piece of ourselves,” Kasich said.
He touted positive work on opioids in Ohio, though numbers of deadly overdoses are still rising. But he didn’t talk much about his new gun law proposals or about his plans to merge education into one agency.
The only news he made was that the state will soon open its largest state park, to be named for Jesse Owens. But he didn’t say where.
Kasich honored three Ohioans with his Courage awards.
One was a Kent State student who developed a campus mental health program. A 10-year-old Ashland boy was honored for giving back $300 meant for an X Box to help the homeless. The third honoree was a Miamisburg nurse who helped rescue victims of the shooting in Las Vegas.
Kasich urged governors who follow him to continue giving the courage awards during future state of the state speeches.
As Republican and Democratic lawmakers flowed out of the theater, most seemed to approve of Kasich's general tone as he emphasized the need for people to help and support their community.
Republican Representative Mike Duffey enjoyed the positive message.
"He's appealing to the kinder, gentler side of what everyone's reacting to in national politics and state politics today just thinking about how do we be human beings with one another instead of just politicians," Duffey said.
While Kasich didn't talk about specific policies such as newly proposed gun regulations and an overhaul to education, Duffey says he's still expecting the administration to push for those measures.
Democratic Representative Dan Ramos agreed that Kasich touched on a lot of important issues and problems.
"But without mentioning 'and then we have to fix this' in fact so much of what he said was in fact so much of what he said was unfortunately, 'Well, we can't fix everything, you know, we have infant mortality, we have poverty, there's more work to do, unfortunately, we can't fix everything,'" Ramos said. "Okay, but you've been in charge for eight years now and your party has been in control of both houses, and let's see those policies because unfortunately the same problems we had then we still have now."
While he appreciated the references to philosophers and great thinkers, Republican Representative Andy Thompson said the speech was hard to follow at times, a sentiment shared by others in attendance.
Thompson said he'd like to see the governor, the House and the Senate, finish this year out strong.
"I guess what I hope most from the speech is that we will run through the tape I think we've got some things we can get accomplished and what I would encourage him to do is to focus on the state and not think about that next level or think about where he's going hopefully we can get some good things going," Thompson said.
Democratic Representative Alicia Reece saw the speech as a fitting farewell to Kasich's time in office, seeing the lack of details as a message that it's now up to the Legislature.
"He continued to say that he did he best he could and now I think it's in the hands of the General Assembly and so it's going to be up to the General Assembly to come back and work and get some legislation as it relates to responsible gun legislation," Reece said.
Several lawmakers talked about the proposed education overhaul that would create a mega education department with a director that answers to the governor. Most said to expect changes to that bill, something that the governor's office is expected to play a role in.