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2040 Vision: Roy Cooper on Why North Carolina Should Be Hopeful About the Future

Governor Roy Cooper


Dec 31, 2019

Design by Annie Maynard and Rudi Petry

The best part of my job is traveling the state of North Carolina, meeting with people from all walks of life. We’re a diverse state with many differences, but we are united in our mutual hope for the future.

I’m amazed at the depth of this hope, whether people face happy times or hardship. I remember meeting one woman in a shelter during Hurricane Florence. She told me about the brave first responders who swept her to safety as Florence crashed in on her world. She escaped with virtually no possessions, but she had gratitude and hope for the future, and she firmly told me, “I’m going to make it.”

The “future” is a term that can spark excitement, anxiety, dread, anticipation. But I view the future for our state as an opportunity, a wide-open plain of unlimited potential if we seize it.

In my job as governor, nothing speaks to the future more than our focus on education. Our teachers and school-support personnel have dedicated their careers to nurturing our youngest and shaping the leaders of tomorrow. That’s why I’m dedicated to supporting those educators and treating them like the professionals they are. In 2020, it’s time they get the raise they deserve.

Education is key to our success. In 2019, we recruited more than twenty-one thousand jobs to our state in both rural and urban areas—the most in one year since before the recession. How? By touting our education system, our workers, and the training we can offer through our universities and community colleges. These classrooms are portals to the future, and we have to prioritize them over more unnecessary, sweeping corporate tax cuts that rob from our students. From the world’s biggest companies to the small-business owners with the biggest ideas, our state is open for business and ripe for more economic growth.

No conversation about the future is complete without addressing climate change head-on. On this challenge—one of our greatest—I am forcing North Carolina to do its part. In 2019, we moved forward on the Clean Energy Plan, which calls for a 70 percent reduction in power-sector greenhouse-gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 with carbon neutrality by 2050. In the absence of leadership from Washington, North Carolina is charging ahead, showing that we can protect our air and water while creating clean-energy jobs of the future. Together with our push for greater resiliency to protect us from natural disasters, North Carolina is moving forward to grow smarter and stronger.

Although Republicans blocked it in 2019, I remain hopeful that we will expand Medicaid in North Carolina in the new year. This is the right thing to do for the five hundred thousand North Carolinians who will be able to access affordable health care. But it’s also the smart thing to do for the rural hospitals struggling on the brink of bankruptcy, the forty thousand jobs it can create, the lower health insurance premiums it creates for the private sector, and the communities that will be transformed.

Over the last three years, we’ve built a strong foundation for the future. We repealed House Bill 2, restored our reputation, and signed a sweeping anti-discrimination executive order. We implemented paid parental leave for state employees. We banned state dollars from being spent on harmful conversion therapy. We worked together to achieve decreases in the rates of opioid-overdose deaths and infant mortality. We invested billions to recover stronger and smarter from devastating storms. The momentum we’ve built and the progress that lies ahead energize me and leave me with hope and optimism.

Since taking office, I’ve talked about my mission as governor. I want a North Carolina where people are better educated, healthier, and have more money in their pockets so that there will be more opportunities for people to have lives of purpose and abundance. For me, these are the keys to a hopeful future, and I’ll keep working every day until it’s unlocked for every North Carolinian.

Roy Cooper is the seventy-fifth governor of North Carolina. Comment on this story at backtalk@indyweek.com. Click here to read the rest of our 2040 predictions.

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