‘Forward, Together’: 62nd inauguration stresses unity over division
Published 5:54 pm Wednesday, December 13, 2023
FRANKFORT — As recently re-elected Gov. Andy Beshear stood in front of hundreds of Kentuckians Tuesday afternoon, backdropped by a Kentucky Capitol newly draped in gold and blue decor, he enjoyed the physical high ground.
Based on their speeches, Beshear and his supporters also appeared to claim the moral high ground.
Beshear’s speech centered around unity —choosing to meet hate, anger and frustration with love, empathy and compassion.
First Lady Britainy Beshear opened her speech with a simple declaration — “Love wins over hate.”
Senior Advisor Rocky Adkins said that Beshear stood up when Kentucky needed a governor to lead with their heart, think outside the box and take a stand with courage and a backbone.
And finally, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman indirectly compared the Beshear-Coleman administration to several historical figures memorialized in statue in the Capitol —Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay and Nettie Depp, an educator and the Capitol’s first woman depicted in statue.
“Bringing people together through the toughest of times like Lincoln, finding common ground on the biggest issues of the day, as Clay did, and building a better future one student at a time like Nettie Depp — those time-honored values have echoed through the years and still guide us today,” Coleman said.
Their speeches were a not-so-subtle dig at the Republican opposition the Beshear administration has faced during the campaign and throughout the past four years.
Daniel Cameron’s campaign included multiple attack ads and focused on emotionally charged issues like transgender women in sports and sex reassignment surgeries.
Members of the legislature’s Republican supermajority also criticized Beshear for lacking the relationships required to get his preferred policies into law and taking credit for economic gains they spearheaded.
Beshear, on the other hand, was careful to appear focused on nonpartisan, Kentucky issues throughout the race, while calling out Republicans for dividing Kentuckians.
He did much of the same during his inauguration speech. He promised to continue the state’s “economic winning streak,” invest in educators, build infrastructure projects, bring high speed Internet to every home and rebuild areas devastated by natural disasters.
Beshear touted a record high budget surplus and record low unemployment, as well as passage of key legislation legalizing medical marijuana and sports betting.
He said that now is the time for Kentucky to be “both an economic and a moral leader of this country.”
“See, one of the most difficult challenges we have before us is that politics and sometimes even our governance has become poisonous and toxic. What is supposed to be an exchange of ideas is involved in agreements and attacks,” Beshear said.
“… turning people against their neighbors just so we can elect one more official with a certain letter behind their name. Listen, I ran for office because I believe that my kids deserve a better world, and I believe every child of the Commonwealth deserves that better world.”
The speeches and swearing in of Beshear and Coleman were only one part of a festivity-filled day.
At midnight on Monday, Beshear and Coleman were privately sworn in at the Capitol.
Tuesday morning, Franklin County and the City of Frankfort hosted a breakfast at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History with food from local eateries.
Coleman, the first woman to be re-elected lieutenant governor in Kentucky history, spoke at the event. She encouraged everyone to pause and take it all in.
Several members of the Kentucky Nurses Association, including KNA Nurse of the Year Teresa Villain and KNA Student of the Year Catherine Beech, were there.
This year, KNA was invited to be grand marshals and lead the parade to honor their service as healthcare workers during the pandemic. KNA member Debbie Belt said that they represent Kentucky’s 90,000 nurses, which make up over half of the state’s healthcare workforce.
“We’re really wanting (the administration) to help us with workforce support and the shortage and everything like that, as well as some of the violence that nurses are experiencing in the workplace,” Belt said. “So we’re here to support the governor, so he’ll support nurses.”
Several public education advocates were also invited. Rhonda Caldwell, CEO of Kentucky Association of School Administrators, said that public education supports 675,000 children in the state.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to keep building strongholds throughout our state through our public school communities,” she said.
After breakfast, a worship service was held at First Christian Church in downtown Frankfort.
Then, thousands of Kentuckians lined down the street leading to the Capitol to watch the parade. People watched intently as dozens of bands, local county leaders, emergency management crews and disaster relief groups paraded through.
One spectator, Kathy, came with her longtime friend Jamie. She said they have been to every inauguration since 1963. However, they were displeased with this year’s smaller scale — only 50 units when there used to be at least 50 bands alone — and attendance this year.
“We’re concerned about why it’s so abbreviated,” Kathy said.
After the parade, the swearing in took place. It was marked by political speeches and performances by Kentucky artists including Poet Laureate Silas House, Ben Sollee, Walker Montgomery and Tyler Childers.
In the evening, the families of Beshear, Coleman, newly elected constitutional officers and other key Kentucky politicians dressed up for the Grand March. They walked down the Capitol steps as they were announced, and then danced in the Rotunda.
The night ended with a private Inauguration Ball.
Amidst all the celebration, Beshear made one clear promise to Kentuckians about his next four years.
“I pledge today to continue to be a governor that serves all our people, regardless of your party and regardless of who you voted for,” he said.
“I will do my best every day to stop the fighting, to push away the division, to remind us that we have more that unites us than could ever pull us apart, and most importantly, I pledge to work to create a better life and more opportunity for every generation that comes after us.”