A cold rain fell on Colonial Williamsburg as Tim Kaine took the oath of office as Virginia’s 70th governor. Onlookers peered through clear-plastic ponchos that were given out by the Inaugural Committee. Trying to ignore a high-school band that mistakenly struck up at the beginning of his inaugural speech, Kaine wanted to rise above the problems.
“This is a glorious day,” he said, prompting cheers from his soggy audience. “The weather is to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously.”
Not since Gov. Thomas Jefferson left Williamsburg to evade the British Navy in 1780 has the colonial capital been the scene of a gubernatorial inauguration. Now, with the Capitol in Richmond in the midst of an extensive renovation, Williamsburg had once again hosted an inauguration. For Kaine, the sense of history was ever present as he assumed an office that was once held by Jefferson and Patrick Henry.
“Henry and Jefferson stood here in the midst of a war raging on our country’s soil, a war that threatened the very existence of Virginia and our young nation,” Kaine said. “They stood here at a time, just as today, when Virginians serving freedom’s cause sacrificed their lives so that democracy could prevail over tyranny.”
As he had done at the Mark Hilton in Alexandria during the first inaugural event, Kaine spoke in Spanish. He promised a solution to Virginia’s transportation problems, improvements to the education system and encouragement to entrepreneurs.
“To keep the promise of Virginia, to succeed, we will embrace our best, historic values and we will work together,” he said. “Ours will be a non-partisan, Virginia agenda that includes all. At the heart of what I pledge to you today is the desire to keep Virginia moving forward.”
ELEMENTS OF THE PAST mingled with the present in Colonial Williamsburg. Before Kaine’s swearing in, actors portraying Henry and Jefferson addressed the crowd — bringing the past to life for the hundreds of spectators.
“Welcome to the birthplace of liberty,” said Patrick Henry, who was sworn in as Virginia’s first governor in 1776. “One must ever be vigilant against designing men in government and we must jealously guard the jewel of liberty.”
Henry’s speech appealed to a sense of patriotism. He called Lord Dunmore — Virginia’s last royal governor — “a scoundrel and a rogue,” saying that the American Revolution was necessary to thwart tyranny.
“May the power of the people forever reign supreme,” he said, prompting an extended cheer from the audience. “We are not subjects; we are citizens.”
Thomas Jefferson — Henry’s old foe in the House of Burgesses — also addressed the crowd. His speech emphasized the system of checks and balances that encourages a healthy debate in the commonwealth.
“We can agree to disagree,” Jefferson said. “A difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.”
The principles of liberty and justice formed the bulk of Jefferson’s speech, as he tried to build a bridge between the past and the present. He told members of the audience that he thought their sense of fashion was strange, but he also said that the principles that were important when he was sworn in as governor in 1779 are just as important in 2006.
“When it comes to fashion, let us swim with the current,” he said. “But when it comes to principles, let us stand like a rock.”
AFTER THE INAUGURATION, Alexandria residents gathered at the Patrick Henry Inn to celebrate Kaine’s accession to the Governor’s Mansion. The new governor arrived in a black sport-utility vehicle, greeted by supporters who were braving the chilly weather outside the inn.
The new governor was whisked into the room by a drum and fife corps. Elected officials and members of the Alexandria Democratic Committee greeted Kaine, offering a prolonged standing ovation and several loud cheers.
“I will be with you often,” he pledged to the Alexandrians in the room. “As a matter of a fact, my first event away from Richmond will be for a certain Alexandria candidate.”
Kaine is expected to make an appearance at Mayor Bill Euille’s campaign kick-off party, and Alexandria Democrats cheered at the governor’s support of the local son.
“Tim and Bill have formed an important working relationship,” said Councilman Paul Smedberg. “I think the announcement that this will be his first trip out of Richmond says a lot about Alexandria’s importance in Virginia.”
AT THE DINNER, Democratic elected officials were given an opportunity to speak to the crowd. But wanting the whole operation to work in an efficient manner, Democratic Committee Chairwoman Susan Kellom asked that each official limit their speech to three words. For the most part, Kellom’s request went unheeded.
“Thank you for being here and have fun,” said Mayor Bill Euille.
“Doesn’t victory taste good,” said Vice Mayor Dell Pepper.
“Thanks for making a difference for Tim Kaine,” said Del. Adam Ebbin (D-49).
“We look forward to Tim Kaine doing great things for education,” said School Board Chairwoman Molly Danforth.
“This is the beginning of a great four years,” said Councilman Rob Krupicka.
“We have a lot to be proud of because Kaine is going to make us proud,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8).
Only state Sen. Patsy Ticer (D-30) followed Kellom’s instructions to limit her speech to three words: “We are happy.”
For the room full of party activists, the inauguration represented the end of a long struggle — one they were eager to see to completion. The menu included peanut soup, a colonials relish trio and French-boned chicken. Over dinner, party activists shared stories and swapped rumors about future campaigns.
“Some people have been working on Tim’s campaign for a full year, so it was gratifying to see the hard work pay off,” Kellom said. “It was such a wonderful coming together of all the hard work that people have been putting in for so long.”