From Governor Beshear
Good afternoon to everyone gathered here in Frankfort and to all of our Kentucky families watching at home.
I am honored to have just taken the oath of office to continue to serve as your Governor. Serving in this role is a special duty, a solemn commitment. It is an obligation I accept with great reverence and humility, but also with great excitement and anticipation. I stand here today enthusiastic and hopeful for all we will accomplish for this commonwealth.
Over the next four years, we will continue our record-breaking economic win-streak, and create the good-paying jobs that will provide bright and promising futures for every single Kentucky child. We will invest in our educators, continue building what were thought to be impossible infrastructure projects, and run high-speed internet to every home. We will keep our promise to counties and communities devastated by natural disasters by not just rebuilding, but revitalizing. Your Lieutenant Governor and I will be there personally, every step of the way. We love you and we will get the job done.
I want to thank my Lieutenant Governor for her leadership. I want to thank my parents, my brother, and my favorite three people in the world – Britainy, Will and Lila. When you are Governor, you don’t leave your job at the office, it follows you home. My family has helped bear the weight of our most difficult days. I love each of you so much.
A special thank you to everyone who worked on my campaign or in state government these last four years. And I want to thank everyone who put their faith in my leadership through their vote.
I recognize that today we are missing Tommy Elliott, Virginia Moore and many other loved ones, and that this year, we have lost three former governors in Governors Brown, Jones and Carroll. But I know they are celebrating with us, and we will see them again.
Today’s ceremony is at what we call our “new” state Capitol Building, which is just old enough to need massive renovation. Still, this awesome structure is much younger than our 231-year-old commonwealth.
It was in December of our first year – 1792 – that “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” became our state motto. It’s been with us every step of the way.
Our people, like the motto, have been tested over two centuries by wars, depressions and recessions, and the noble fight for civil rights for all of our people. In the last four years, we have faced our own tests. Each we have met with love, compassion, and empathy.
When we faced a pandemic, we sacrificed for each other, came together every day at 4 or 5 p.m., and shined green lights all over the commonwealth as the color of compassion. Thank you to all of our health care heroes who helped us through that deadly time.
When tornadoes leveled towns and flooding carried away homes and even loved ones, we came together – neighbors pulling neighbors from their basements or carrying fellow Kentuckians through the current. Thank you to our National Guard and first responders for their amazing response, and to the Kentuckians that still today are feeding and helping those in need.
I made a promise to be there to rebuild every home and every life, and we are going to see it through, with now 7 high ground communities rising in the East and over 150 fully constructed new homes for our families in the West.
We truly get through the hard times, and we get through them together. But we also get to the good times and get to them together as well.
In our first four years, we secured the best years of economic development in our history. We are building the Brent Spence companion bridge with no tolls, four-laning the entire Mountain parkway, and pushing I-69 forward.
We’ve secured federal funding to run high-speed internet to every community; building the two biggest electric battery plants on planet earth; and we’ve opened the cleanest, greenest recycled paper mill in the country.
We had the best years on record for our Bourbon and Tourism industries. We have record high budget surpluses and record low unemployment. We’ve created more than 50,500 new jobs and generated a record 28.5 billion dollars in new private sector investment.
We passed sports betting and medical marijuana, capped the cost of insulin, and health care is expanding all over the commonwealth, including the construction of the first hospital in West Louisville in 150 years.
Put simply, we are at a moment in time with the true potential to achieve our collective dream: the dream of a better Kentucky. And we can and should realize that dream if we don’t stand in our own way.
See, one of the most difficult challenges before us is that politics – and sometimes even our governance – has become poisonous and toxic. What is supposed to be an exchange of ideas has devolved into grievances and attacks. Some appear to think it’s just a game, that no target is off limits, no lie is too hurtful.
We see strategies and commercials meant to make one American – one Kentuckian – an enemy of another, trying to accuse them of horrible things in order to dehumanize them, so as to somehow justify anger, even hate, turning people against their neighbors just to have one more elected official with a certain letter behind their name.
I ran for office to leave a better world for my children, for all of our children. And this is our chance – Kentucky’s chance – to be the difference, to be both an economic and moral leader of this country.
So, we must face this challenge the way we always do – together.
Together, we will not meet hate with hate, or anger with anger, or even frustration with frustration. Instead, we will continue with the same love, empathy, and compassion that has guided us through so much. For me, these values are grounded in my faith. It teaches me to love my neighbor as myself. To not judge, lest I be judged. That what I do to the least of thee, I do to He.
My faith teaches me that all human beings deserve true dignity and opportunity and that we can come together simply by acknowledging that our faith and values call us to be better; and for me, remembering that my savior could have been the Prince of Power, but chose to be the Prince of Peace.
I pledge today to continue to be a Governor who serves all our people regardless of your party or who you voted for. 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.
The eyes of the country are on Kentucky. And the next four years are our chance to lead – to move forward, together.
From Lt. Governor Coleman
Good afternoon. It is an honor to be with you in front of Kentucky’s beautiful state Capitol, as your Lieutenant Governor and the first woman to ever take this oath of office twice.
Today, we gather on the steps of “the People’s House,” not as Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, but as Kentuckians.
As I look around, I am reminded that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.
I am grateful to see family and friends who support me and make it possible for me to do the work I love: my parents – particularly my dad, from whom compliments are hard to come by, so I’m glad we got his introduction on video; my husband and your Second Gentleman, Chris; Emma, Will, Nate, and Evelynne. I work towards a better Kentucky every day with you in mind.
And I’m grateful to see Governor Beshear and the First Family. It’s truly an honor to serve alongside someone who treats every Kentucky family as his own. Governor, thank you for your leadership, your example, and for the opportunity you have given me to serve.
In the building behind us, we see memorials to Kentuckians who, while imperfect, rose to meet the challenges of their day – men like Abraham Lincoln, best known for holding the country together through the Civil War; Henry Clay, who history remembers as “the great compromiser”; and Nettie Depp, the first female statue in our state capitol – who also happened to be a teacher.
The Beshear-Coleman administration has forged its own path, but we never lost sight of the historic, uniquely Kentucky, symbolism around us. Because bringing people together through the toughest of times like Lincoln, finding common ground on the biggest issues of the day as Clay did, building a better future, one student at a time just like Nettie Depp, those time-honored values have echoed through the years and still guide us today.
The symbolism on these grounds is important, and so are the lessons we draw from it. But it is just as important what you don’t see here today. There is an empty space in the rotunda where the statue of Jefferson Davis once stood. That is because we not only installed the capitol’s first female statue, we also removed one that represented division.
Of course, removing a statue doesn’t change history. But we can all agree that every Kentuckian – young and old, male and female, all colors, and all faiths, deserve to feel that they belong, if this is truly to be the “People’s House.”
I don’t have to tell you that over the past four years, our commonwealth has faced historic tragedy. But my faith in Kentucky has never been stronger. We lost over 19,000 of our fellow Kentuckians to COVID. Tornadoes devastated entire communities in the west and flooding upended countless lives in the east. It was the worst of Mother Nature and yet the best of humanity.
We faced our challenges head-on because that is what we do, and we never backed down because that is who we are. I am so proud that we chose our health care heroes to lead today’s inaugural parade. Because during the pandemic, you led us every step of the way, too. We see you and we are grateful for your work.
As the pandemic caused us all to feel anxious, isolated, and uncertain, the discussion surrounding mental health took center stage. Nationally, the #1 issue for parents was, and is, their child’s mental health. But I did not like that I only heard adults talking to other adults about it. So, in Kentucky, we became a national leader by elevating student voice.
Our Student Mental Health Initiative has delivered $40 million dollars in federal funding to Kentucky for school-based mental health services – and we are not done yet. To the student leaders joining us today who served as our North Star during this work, as well as the counselors and family resource coordinators who participated in today’s parade, thank you. Your voices and your contributions are worth celebrating.
And that’s true of so many Kentuckians – historically and today – including too many who don’t always get the recognition and respect they deserve. From the beginning, Governor Beshear and I have worked to change that.
During our first term, we assembled the most diverse cabinet in Kentucky history. More women and minorities have been represented in leadership positions in our first four years than ever before. Because decisions shouldn’t be made about us, without us.
When we took office, the Kentucky Commission on Women was inactive. Governor Beshear asked me to revive this initiative, and as the state’s highest elected woman, I was honored to do so. This year, for the first time since 2014, the Commission inducted seven dynamic women from across the commonwealth into the Kentucky Women Remembered Hall of Fame. And there will be more, because representation matters.
These are the values that have helped pave the way to where we are today: our response to tragedy; our commitment to lifting the voices of every Kentuckian. That has shaped a future brighter than I could have imagined possible when I stood here four years ago.
Thanks to historic economic investment, unparalleled job creation, and record budget surpluses, Kentucky ranks #2 in the country in economic development. And as somebody from Burgin, one of the smallest towns in the commonwealth, the number I am most proud of, is that Kentucky skyrocketed to #3 in the nation in rural job creation. Because Governor Beshear and I believe in a Kentucky that lifts people up, and not one that leaves people out.
As we prepared for today’s inauguration, I couldn’t help but wonder, how will we be remembered, in this moment? As the Governor and I revisited memories of both the tragedies and the triumphs of the last four years, I remembered a saying I used as a basketball coach: “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it that matters.”
And that helped me realize, it won’t be a global pandemic, or historic tornadoes, or catastrophic flooding that will define us. It will be how we moved forward, together.
What I will remember about you, Kentucky, is how you sacrificed for each other through uncertain times. Neighbors – even complete strangers – showing up for one another in what had to be the darkest hour for so many families. And local and state leaders fulfilling our promise to be there until every structure and every life is rebuilt.
The goodness of our people restored my faith in humanity, over and over again. Showing up for one another has never been more important. And you can rest assured, that is what will guide our next four years.
Our service here is too short to be wasted on partisanship and political games. I think Abraham Lincoln and Henry Clay would agree; and I know Nettie Depp would agree that the next chapter of this story we are 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.
Because, yes, our economy is booming. But we cannot lose sight that the future of Kentucky’s economy is in our classrooms today.
Thank you to the educators who helped lead our parade today, just as you lead your communities every day. We cannot continue as the second-best state in economic development if we remain 40th in teacher pay. We will not stay #3 in rural job creation if we continue to underfund the largest employer in every rural community – their public school.
From cradle to career, education is the key that unlocks doors for every Kentuckian. Here’s a perfect example: once we waived the GED testing fee, over 8,000 Kentuckians improved their education to get a job that was once out of reach. So now, let’s turn to the opposite end of the spectrum: our littlest learners.
We cannot continue this historic momentum if our children’s zip code determines their place in the world by the first day of kindergarten. That might sound hyperbolic, but follow me, here: Prison populations are projected by 3rd grade literacy rates. 3rd grade literacy rates are projected by kindergarten readiness. And kindergarten readiness is projected by access to pre-K.
Quite literally, we can invest in young people on the front end, or we will pay for it on the back end. The time for universal Pre-K in Kentucky is now.
Our education first administration chose an inaugural theme like “forward, together,” for a reason. Because that is the kind of Kentucky our kids deserve. And that is the kind of leadership voters asked for.
I pledge to you, Kentucky, that we will continue to show up and extend our hand in the name of putting people over politics; that Governor Beshear and I will continue to set an example of decency and kindness that you can be proud of.
From the bottom of my heart: Thank you for believing in us, because we will never stop believing in you.
God bless you and may God continue to bless the commonwealth of Kentucky.