North Carolina Department of Correction

Theodis Beck, Secretary of Correction
Oath of Office Remarks
April 26, 1999

Governor Hunt, Chief Justice Mitchell, Chief of Staff Freeman, my wife, sons, family, distinguished members of the Council of State and the General Assembly, fellow Cabinet Members, friends, employees of the Department of Correction and to all assembled here today, it is in giving glory and honor to the Grand Architect of the Universe that I greet you this afternoon.

I am honored that you could be with me today on this occasion and I thank you for the sacrifices that you have made to share these few precious moments with me as we pause between the past and the future.

I stand before you today not so much because of my hard work and preparation, but more so because of God's grace and His mercy.

I stand before you today because of parents who loved me and taught me valuable and lasting lessons about life in their short-lived lives.

I stand before you today because of a loving wife, who has been so supportive of me. She is my best friend and my source of strength. And my two sons, good guys, who have made it easy for me to be a father. When I would have to be gone because of work or military commitments, they always said, "Go ahead and do what you have to do to; we will be fine and then they would look at each other and say, 'Us against the world.'"

I stand before you today by virtue of a sister's love and encouragement and because of Governor Hunt's willingness to give me this great opportunity. Thank you Governor.

I stand before you today on the shoulders of people who have lifted me up throughout the years. They taught me how to put aside my fear and walk in the public housing projects of Asheville; to never get above my raising; to work hard and do right; to take my job serious, but not take myself too serious; to remember that thoroughbreds don't cry; and that excuses are tools of the incompetent--used to build monuments to nothing.

The Department of Correction as one of the largest departments in state government will continue to do it's part to help make North Carolina a safe place to live for all of its citizens. Probation and Parole Officers will continue to knock on doors and use technology to monitor the activities of offenders assigned to the department's supervision by the courts and Parole Commission. We will continue our work as partners in the community, in schools and with law enforcement.

Our prisons will continue to provide fair and humane treatment to those assigned to our care, custody and control and we will be relentless in our efforts to make all able-bodied inmates work hard along our highways and all across this state where there is a need for our services (parks, disaster recovery efforts and the like). The Department of Correction also wants to play a role in the prevention of juvenile crime.

In addition to the two major divisions, we have excellent support services and a superb Enterprise operation.

While the task may seem daunting with some 19,000 employees, more than 32,000 inmates and over 113,000 probationers and parolees, the department has an excellent senior management team with roughly 200 years of experience, all of whom are career professionals and long-term state employees.

Taking care of all department employees will also be a priority. Their tireless, endless and often thankless work goes unnoticed. But they do a job in public service that has to be done to make life better for all of us.

We will get the job done, Governor. That is my commitment to you and to the citizens of North Carolina. We will view obstacles and challenges as opportunities to excel. We will examine ourselves with the same type of intensity that a skilled prosecutor cross examines a hostile witness on the stand, looking for efficiencies and areas to make improvements.

This department has had excellent leadership over the past six years, in former secretaries Franklin Freeman and Mack Jarvis, and I have great footsteps in which to follow. I will be forever grateful to them for their mentoring and willingness to give me opportunities. The standard of leadership has been set and the bar of excellence has been raised. My goal is to uphold the standard and raise that bar even higher.

To whom much is given--much is required. There may well be some difficult days ahead, but that's okay because if I fall, I will just get up and try again, because I know that trouble--will not always last. I think that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it best in his quote, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenges and controversy."

Why am I so happy to join this cabinet? Because when I look at Governor Hunt's agenda I can see the Governor's love for this state and all of its people and I truly believe that the Department of Correction plays a vital role in helping to make life better for all North Carolinians.

I am so very happy that all of you have joined me today on this joyous occasion and now as we prepare to move on with the business at hand, and travel roads not yet taken, I ask for your continued support and your prayers.

I want to share with you the words of my favorite poem. It has been my inspiration over the years, and it is Invictus by William Ernest Henley:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

I am convinced that with the support of family and friends and all of us working together, nothing that we do will fail. The Department of Correction will do its part to help make North Carolina better and safer for all of its citizens.

May God bless all of you and God bless North Carolina!

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William Ernest Henley

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