Beshear focuses on education and unity in inauguration speech

Governor Andy Beshear waves to the crowd has he concludes his remarks. Beshear then opens the doors to the capital to the public.

Matt Stahl

Over two years of fierce campaigning and an election that ended with candidates separated by the slimmest of votes came to an end on a chilly Tuesday afternoon in Frankfort when Andy Beshear was sworn in as Kentucky’s new governor.

Beshear’s speech focused on uniting the fractured sides of Kentucky’s governing system in hopes of working for the greater good of the state.

“We succeed when we stop treating each other as the enemy,” Beshear said. “That’s when we get government at its very best.”

Despite the calls for togetherness, Beshear made several announcements during his speech that might cause division among Kentuckians. He announced he will be signing an executive order allowing some former felons to vote, a right Kentucky is one of the last states to withhold.

“Over 100,000 men and women who have done wrong in the past but are doing right now,” Beshear said. “They deserve to participate in our great democracy.”

He also focused on his commitment to public education and said he completely changed the membership of Kentucky’s board of education, a move that already prompted a lawsuit from those who were replaced.

“These members were not chosen based on any partisan affiliation,” Beshear said. “But based on their commitment to make our schools better, to put our children first.”

He finalized his commitment to schools by commenting on the 2017 lockout of striking teachers from the Capitol building. Beshear joked about his new Lt. Governor and former teacher Jacqueline Coleman’s involvement in the lockout, which drew cheers from the red-clad teachers, who led the inaugural parade and made up much of the inauguration day crowd.

“She is the first lieutenant governor to also serve as our education cabinet secretary,” Beshear said. “Jacqueline has gone from being locked out to lieutenant governor.”

Bowling Green’s representative and member of the WKU history department, Patti Minter, said that she was thrilled with Tuesday’s events.

“As you can hear from his speech, it’s a real tone shift from the previous administration,” Minter said. “I thought Governor Beshear’s speech was full of hope and full of specific things that he wants to do that are going to lift up things that Kentuckians have been concerned with.”

Minter also discussed how she expects the Beshear administration to affect the Bowling Green community and WKU, particularly higher education funding in the coming budget.

“I feel good about the prioritization of higher education in that budget.” Minter said. “We don’t have to sell this governor on the idea that education matters. He knows that it does.”

Among other speakers from Beshear’s family, House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, who ran against Beshear in the Democratic primary, gave remarks expressing his excitement for the new administration.

“In 2023 we will look back on this date as the first step toward an even brighter future,” Adkins said.

Projects Editor Matt Stahl can be reached at [email protected] Follow Matt on Twitter @mattstahl97.