The text of Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s inaugural address, as delivered yesterday outside the State House:

Hello! I remember my granddad telling me about Governor Schaefer [who had just introduced Ehrlich]. Thank you.

Lieutenant Governor Townsend -- boy, I'm so proud you're here today. Thank you so much. Lieutenant Governor Steele, Secretary Kemp, Chief Judge Bell, elected officials, members of Congress. Congress has invaded! Aw, nobody clapped! Members of the National Guard, honored veterans, special guests, ladies and gentlemen.

We like our new house -- thank you. Kendel wanted to return the key this morning, but I told her: "No, it's not a hotel, dear. This is where we live." Drew likes the 24-hour food service.

I need to convey my thanks to some special people here today because these people have been so much -- have meant so much -- to me and I've learned so much from them.

Governor Marvin Mandel, where are you? For your firm friendship and willingness to help as we reform state government.

Governor Hughes, Harry Hughes -- Governor Hughes, for your calm leadership and steady hand during a very difficult time in our state's history, governor.

Governor Schaefer -- Kendel Ehrlich really did have a picture of you on our refrigerator at home. I'm not going to tell you what was on that picture! She loves you. For your love of our state and zeal for public life and stewardship of our tax dollars over so many years. You are someone I have respected for a long time, and there is a reason you spoke here today.

On behalf of all the Ehrlichs, thank you all for your invaluable contributions as former governors.

Lieutenant Governor Steele -- we were looking for height in the new administration. By the way, Mike Steele taught me some important lessons, as well, in the course of this campaign. He is a man of steel and conviction and class and integrity. He is making Maryland history on Dr. King's birthday. What a day for our state!

Members of the Maryland delegation of Congress, former colleagues from the House -- can we get a hand, at least a pretend hand, for members of Congress? My service in Congress taught me a rich respect for the diversity of this state and this nation.

Former and present members of the Maryland General Assembly, my eight years in the House of Delegates taught me that much is accomplished when good people of different philosophies cooperate and partisanship takes a back seat to progress.

My former colleagues at my law firm Ober, Kaler, Grimes and Shriver, and members of the Maryland Bar, you taught me to respect the law, grow as an advocate and give back to those less fortunate.

My classmates from college and law school, teammates and classmates here today, we taught each other the value of loyalty, teamwork and friendship all the while growing up.

Friends and neighbors in Arbutus, Maryland, you taught me about the importance of Little League, town halls, neighborhood schools and a supportive, loving community. You are the best, Arbutus, Maryland.

And the most important people in my life:

My father-in-law, Walt Sibiski, he's the best father-in-law I've ever had.

Will my parents come here, please? Mom and Dad? Everybody is familiar with the phrase "unconditional love." I always heard: "Fail? Do it again. You fail? Do it again. Do what you want to do, Bobby. We'll always be there for you. Regardless of what path you decide, we will be there for you unconditionally." That's the definition of unconditional love. I have benefited from unconditional love every day for 45 years from these two great parents, and I love them very much.

Kendel Ehrlich. I knew that was going to happen: She's pulled way ahead of me in the polls already. Can you come here a second, please? Come on, babe. This lady has shown me complete faith and confidence -- complete. She is my foundation, and she is my partner, and believe me, she is going to be one terrific first lady for this state.

And Drew Ehrlich taught me what really matters in life.

I stand before you today at the end result of all these influences. With Michael, I intend to translate these life lessons learned into policy.

Our streets must be safer, or we will not thrive. We must reverse the trend of simply giving up on so many young people trapped by drug abuse and despair. The drug epidemic makes us bleed every day. It must be addressed, and you are going to hear a lot about this problem from our administration. We can close the revolving door of recidivism and forever open the door of hope and opportunity for all of our people. We must be receptive to new ideas.

Homeland defense: Our administration will also address the threat posed by international criminals. The war on terrorism requires vigilance and commitment. Homeland defense is now a part of our daily planning. We must all understand there is a clear and present danger to our way of life. Our police, our fire, our public safety resources must be utilized more effectively and better coordinated with the federal government.

And while I mention police and fire, and those who protect us every day, could we have one standing ovation for every policeman and every fireman in this audience? Thank you.

I ask everyone to work with us to provide the finest education opportunities for our children and all who wish to better prepare themselves to participate in our 21st-century economy. A quality education guarantees an even playing field for all Marylanders. It is the ticket, and trust us, we know -- Mike and Bob know -- it is the ticket every young person must be given in order to succeed.

With regard to the budget, we're going to ask government to do what thousands of Maryland families do every day: live within its means. We should not be fearful of change, of reform, of better ideas, particularly where taxpayer dollars are concerned. For us, for us, every day is a taxpayer day, every dollar is a taxpayer dollar, every minute is a taxpayer minute. There will be honest disagreements where spending priorities are concerned, but good and honest and hardworking people can overcome their differences in the best interests of the people.

With regard to health, people with disabilities must be given a chance to thrive in this age of technology and empowerment. It's a constitutional right, it's a moral imperative, and it's a good deal for the taxpayer.

Moreover, government must ensure that the working poor are able maintain health coverage while continuing to work and build personal wealth.

Kendel and I have been blessed with strong and loving families. Our families have instilled in us the belief that the essence of life is God, family, friends and work -- in that order -- and, with regard to work, making a difference during our brief time here on Earth.

We have witnessed the good works of our citizens who make a difference in the lives of the most needy among us. Accordingly, we shall open the privileges of the governor's office to assist those organizations and those individuals of faith who devote themselves to the performance of good deeds. It's about time, and our state will be the better for it.

During the course of my life, you, the citizens of Maryland, have embraced me in incredible and wonderful ways.

Classmates helped me in school -- I originally had written that "through school." Teammates looked out for me on athletic fields, and hundreds of thousands of people trusted me to do the right thing in two legislatures -- one state, one federal.

Amazing parents, mentors and an incredible spouse offered me their encouragement and loving support. So many of you have taught me so much in life. These life lessons learned will serve me -- us -- well in the difficult days to come.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being a part of my life on this historic day. Thank you for your willingness to be a part of Maryland history. Thank you for your dedication to making Maryland a better place to live, grow, work and prosper.

Now, let's get down to work -- together. Thank you, be safe, and Godspeed.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and first lady Kendel Ehrlich acknowledge applause as they walk down the State House steps. The governor said of his wife: "She is my foundation, and she is my partner, and believe me, she is going to be one terrific first lady."