Rep. Dean Cannon is now 'Speaker D'
"I think you're here on an errand from God," Pastor Walter Jackson of First Baptist Church, Winter Park, said at the outset of the 2 p.m. Republican conference meeting.
Cannon, 40, was lauded as a steady and principled leader, "a model public servant," a loyal Republican who has earned respect of the Democrats who once controlled the state.
But he moved quickly past the pomp, urging the House to remain fiscally prudent and appeared to rebuff a call to rely on federal stimulus money or higher taxes to solve the problems. "Easy money is no substitute for hard work," he said. (Buzz audio here.)
"This situation, while it is not unprecedented," Cannon said. "Florida's history has been one of boom and bust. ... But history repeats itself when we fail to heed its warnings and learn its lessons. And so, we stand here today, not so much at a moment of great crisis, but at a moment of great opportunity."
In a nod to just how bad things are, Cannon had already canceled the standard parties that follow the chamber in the House.
"There will be hard times ahead, and in hard times, people can stumble, and people can fall, and people can get hurt. Some believe that whenever someone falls, the government should rush to their side, prop a pillow under their head, cover them with a blanket and then scour the horizon for someone to blame. They confuse compassion for action and offer sympathy instead of help. Others say we should do the opposite and simply keep walking and ignore the fallen.
"We must, instead, extend our hand and help those who are down to pull themselves up, so they can dust themselves off and continue on their journey under their own power. Because that concept is at the core of who we are as a Republican Conference. We are the party of individual opportunity. We believe that each person is the best judge of his or her own needs and desires; and that each person deserves the respect of being responsible for his or her own decisions. ..."
"Over the last four years, I have often looked up at the portraits ringing this room -- at these now silent speakers," Cannon said before a packed crowd that included Gov. Charlie Crist and an array of past speakers, including Cannon's mentor, Daniel Webster, who became the first GOP speaker in modern times in 1996 and gave an emotional introduction Monday.
"In most cases, the details their speakerships are long forgotten," Cannon went on. "But they abide as symbols of the chambers they led, of legislatures that were sometimes wise and sometimes not, of legislatures that convened in prosperous boom years and during scarce bust years, of legislatures that faced few real challenges or, like us, great and daunting ones.
"But if the details of those legislatures are lost to the archives of history, their decisions impact us still today, just as decisions we make will be felt long after we have been forgotten ... I remain optimistic about this institution and about the future of our great state. Tomorrow, when the gavel comes down and session starts, that future begins. And if we hold true to our principles, work hard and govern with discipline and foresight we will, by the grace of God, write a bold new chapter in Florida's history."
Before the roll call, Speaker Larry Cretul playfully asked Cannon, "Are you ready? Do you have the votes."
The vote was unanimous.
[Photos, top: Representative Dean Cannon hugs Florida Governor Charlie Crist during Cannon's Designation Ceremonyin the Florida House. Middle: Ellen Cannon listens to her husband Dean Canon as their daughter Katherine Cannon takes a nap. Bottom: Representative Dean Cannon reacts as his son Dean, left, peers around the corner on the floor of the Florida House. Photos by Scott Keeler, Times]