The inauguration of Wes Moore
(D) as Governor of Maryland was a slightly more star-studded affair than those of his outgoing predecessor, Larry Hogan (R). For starters, Moore was introduced by Oprah Winfrey. Behind her in the grandstand seating area overlooking Lawyers' Mall in Annapolis was Chelsea Clinton. But Moore made a point of recognizing Hogan. Turning to the former governor, Moore said, "we are grateful and thankful for the kindness that you and your team have shown throughout this entire transition period. Thank you for eight years of great service to a state that we both love." Moore then paused deliberately, and the crowd stood to give Hogan a standing ovation.
Calling one-time Baltimore TV news anchor Winfrey a "Maryland girl at heart," Moore thanked her "for always being in my corner." He also recognized his wife and children. And then Moore became the first African-American to deliver an inaugural speech as governor of Maryland.
The historic nature of the moment could not be ignored. Moore took an oath of office earlier Wednesday with his hand on a bible belonging to Frederick Douglass. Noting that he was speaking blocks away from the Annapolis city docks where African slaves once arrived, Moore recalled the "uneven and unimaginable progress" African-Americans have made since then.
But Maryland is also a state "where anything is possible," Moore added in welcoming his Jamaican immigrant mother and the Indian immigrant mother of his Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller to another standing ovation. On her own history-making road to the second-highest statewide office in Maryland, Miller was sworn in with her hand on a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, the most-revered of Hindu texts.
Shifting his focus to the present and future, Moore said "this journey has never been about making history. It's about marching forward. Today is not an idictment of our past. Today is a celebration of our collective future." Nodding to the balancing act he will have to perform between the many interest groups making expensive demands of his new administration, and maintaining the state's relatively-solid fiscal standing, Moore spoke of being "disciplined" and "making hard choices."
The new governor asked how it could be that a state with such revenue could also be a state where one in eight children live in poverty, and 250,000 people lack health insurance. In a zero-sum perspective of winners and losers, "we've come to expect that the people who have lost will keep losing," Moore said. "We must refuse to accept that," Moore declared, punctuating each word with a strike of his palm on the podium.
Moore spoke of the need to improve the state's business climate, and to attract aerospace, clean energy, and cybersecurity firms. Hogan was successful in bringing a Hitachi rail car factory to Hagerstown, a Greenland Technologies electric vehicle plant to White Marsh, and a United Safety Technology medical supply factory to Baltimore. But Montgomery County hasn't attracted a major corporate headquarters in over 25 years, and has lost several of the few Fortune 500 companies it had during that time.
Such economic growth needs to be balanced with higher wages and security for workers, Moore argued. "Maryland can be the best place in America for employers and employees," he said.
Noting rising crime across the state, Moore said "many Marylanders have grown weary in their faith that governments can actually keep them safe." But he vowed, "we cannot and will not militarize ourselves to safety," and pointed to the fact that "Maryland encarcerates more black boys than any other state in this country." He said he is a governor who "knows what it feels like to have handcuffs on my wrists...I felt that when I was 11 years old. I also know what it's like to stand with families and mourn the victims of violent crime. We do not have to choose between being a safe state and a just one."
Moore promised Maryland will run on 100% clean energy by 2035, and create thousands of jobs in the process, by focusing on wind power. He said not every child needs to go to college to be successful, citing his path of military service and community college. "I think things worked out pretty well," he added.
Like many inaugural speeches, Moore's was short on actual policies and expense numbers. One specific plan he identified was creating a service year option for high school graduates. He also promised to be successful despite skeptics who say he will be unable to overcome "toxic partisanship." There is no such obstacle in Annapolis, however, as Democrats control every office and chamber of state government. Moore's actual challenge will be to reign in the aspirations of his own party, after eight years of the Hogan administration. And even Hogan was unable to block much of the Democrats' agenda during that time.
Recognizing that position of near-total power, Moore promised that "we have a unique place and space to do something special." Moore is in a unique and powerful position himself, to leverage a successful gubernatorial term and sparkling resume into not-so-distant future presidential campaign conversations, in a party that has had difficulty finding the next John F. Kennedy or Barack Obama in its youthful ranks since 2016.
"Now is the opportunity we have to march forward, and to march together," Moore concluded. "And let us march on 'til victory is won. Today is not the victory. Today is the opportunity. It is our opportunity to lead with love. It is our opportunity to create with compassion. It's our opportunity to fight fearlessly for our future. Maryland, our time is right now. Our time is now to build a state that, for those who came before us, that they fought for, and it's a state that leaves no one behind. This is not a slogan. It is the fulfillment of a hope. Maryland, it's time, let's lead, and let's do it together. God bless you all, and thank you so much."