Beshear speaks of unity and hope over hate in second inaugural speech

Published 10:39 am Wednesday, December 13, 2023

By McKenna Horsley

Kentucky Lantern

Standing in front of Kentucky’s Capitol, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear on Tuesday spoke of hope and unity for the next four years.

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Beshear and Lt.  Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, who  were inaugurated for the second time, highlighted in their addresses the accomplishments of their first term, stressing economic development, and honored Kentuckians who overcame unpredicted struggles — namely the coronavirus pandemic, the Western Kentucky tornadoes and flooding in Eastern Kentucky.

“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,” Beshear told the crowd and a statewide audience watching KET’s live broadcast. “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 can 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.”

Beshear won reelection in November against Republican challenger Attorney General Daniel Cameron by about 5% of votes. Shortly after, national pundits began eyeing the red state Democrat for a future presidential run. Throughout his campaign, Beshear decried what he called “anger politics” from Republicans. On Tuesday, Beshear said recent politics have become “poisonous and toxic.”

“We see strategies and commercials meant to make one American – one Kentuckian – into an enemy of another, trying to accuse them of horrible things so as to dehumanize them, as to somehow justify anger, even hate, turning people against their neighbors,” the governor said. “Why? Just so we can elect one more official with a certain letter behind their name.”

Accomplishments from Beshear’s first term he highlighted included announcing $28.5 billion in private-sector investments since December 2019 and aiding in several large economic projects such as the planned Ford Motor Co. and SK Innovation electric-vehicle battery plants in Hardin County. Beshear’s administration also moved forward large infrastructure projects across the state, such as plans to build the Brent Spence companion bridge without tolls and to four-lane the entire Mountain Parkway.

Coleman, who is the first woman to be reelected lieutenant governor, called for support of public education. The former educator recalled statues of important Kentuckians steps away inside the Capitol — President Abraham Lincoln, statesman Henry Clay and education reformer Nettie Depp. She also noted one spot in the Capitol is empty since a statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, was removed in 2020.

“Our service here is too short to be wasted on partisanship and political games,” Coleman said in her speech. “I think Abraham Lincoln and Henry Clay would agree; and I know Nettie Depp would agree that the next chapter of this story that we’re writing together shouldn’t be about us. It should be about preparing the next generation of Kentuckians to harness this once in a lifetime opportunity we have worked so hard to create – for them.”

First Lady Britainy Beshear, who introduced her husband, also spoke of unity. She began her remarks with the line, “Love wins over hate.” After being introduced by the Beshears’ children, Will and Lila, the first lady emphasized the importance of listening to other Kentuckians, especially during difficult times like the pandemic.

“Andy’s words and actions over the past four years are reminders that he leads with love,” the first lady said. “Andy is helping to build a commonwealth where there is no room for hate division or marginalizing individuals simply different.”

Both Beshear and Coleman took their oaths of office in a private ceremony at midnight on Tuesday. After the inaugural parade, they renewed their oaths in a public ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

Before the public ceremony, Grammy-nominated artist Tyler Childers performed a rendition of “Universal Sound,” a favorite of the governor’s, and Kentucky Poet Laureate Silas House read an original poem, “Those Who Carry Us.” Both Childers and House are Eastern Kentucky natives.

Former Gov. Steve Beshear, the current governor’s father; former Gov. Paul Patton; and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who was recently elected chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, also attended Tuesday’s inauguration. Former state representative and Beshear adviser Rocky Adkins was the public ceremony’s master of ceremonies.

Beshear’s afternoon ceremony was also attended by several high-ranking Republicans, including President Robert Stivers, Secretary of State Michael Adams, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Qualres, Treasurer and Auditor-elect Allison Ball, Attorney General-elect Russell Coleman, Treasurer-elect Mark Metcalf and Agriculture Commissioner-elect Jonathan Shell.

The grand marshals of the parade included health care workers and teachers, a sign of support from the Beshear administration for health care employees who worked during the coronavirus pandemic and public school education.

Beshear, Coleman and Kentucky’s Republican constitutional officers, will be presented in the state Capitol Tuesday evening as part of the Grand March, another Inauguration tradition.