As the inauguration of Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas’ 45th Governor, draws near, there are hints of a central theme emerging for the inauguration which may not be new, but may flavor his term in office.
The much publicized theme of “Discovering A New Day” will be often repeated and no doubt buttress his all-so important inaugural address, set for noon Jan. 13, on the imposing limestone steps of the State Capitol.
Hutchinson, this week, will hold regional “Thank You” events from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in Rogers; Tuesday in Fort Smith; Wednesday in Jonesboro, and will wrap up the state wide tour on Thursday in El Dorado. Most of these evening regional events are $15 for a ticketed barbecue dinner meal and brief speech by the governor-elect. Tickets sales for these regional events have been brisk, according to GOP sources.
The Little Rock event kick-off theme of the two-day inauguration is also, “Discovering A New Day,” to headline a Little Rock rally next Monday, Jan. 12. That event will be at the Arkansas Museum of Discovery, 500 President Clinton Avenue, Suite 150, Little Rock. Those tickets are $25 per person (two-ticket limit per person) for the casual attire event.
Hutchinson, a semi-serious student of Arkansas history, will no doubt script his inaugural speech, much like previous Republicans – the Winthrop Rockefeller (in 1967) and Frank White (in 1980) – who were been elected outright to govern over stiff Democratic opposition. Sadly, neither Rockefeller nor White, both deceased, will be at the events for Hutchinson.
It is unclear if former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee, who was thrust into the governor’s office on July 15, 1996, with the resignation of former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, will be present at any of Hutchinson’s events. So with history in mind, I will repeat some of the remarks uttered by Rockefeller upon his initial inauguration Jan. 10, 1967. Arkansans will, no doubt, hear some of these central themes from Hutchinson in a week from tomorrow (Tuesday).
In 1967, Gov. Rockefeller said: “This is a momentous day in my life and possibly it’s a momentous day in the history of Arkansas …” Rockefeller after joking that he “hope(d) that it will not be another hundred years before another member of my Party is standing here,” delivered a quick assessment on the future of a two-party system in the state.
“The facts that related to my having been elected are, to me, an expression by the people that instead of looking backwards, we are looking forward. And, in electing me and other Republicans the people were expressing a desire for change.” Rockefeller went on to lament that in 1967 there were few other members of the GOP elected. He suffered through two-terms of a largely Democrat controlled Legislature.
“…But at the same time, the fact that relatively few Republicans were elected suggests to me that Arkansas – and appropriately, Arkansans who have led the way in many things – are “testing the waters,” in sense of the potential of the two-party system.”
Rockefeller quickly went on to dispense with party politics.
“Now is not the time for party politics. I was elected by Republicans, Democrats and Independents; by the people of all races and all creeds, from all walks of life. … As the thirty-seventh elected governor, I intended to represent all, and so I dedicate my administration to the people of Arkansas.”
Strong words from a strong, good man elected governor for our state.
Let’s hope Asa might possess and express the same type of vision in his own words on inauguration day and beyond into his historic term as an Arkansas Republican governor with a GOP controlled state Senate and State House. Somehow that Biblical admonition “that to whom much is given, much is expected,” comes into play here.
For your words, next week, Asa, I implore you be bold, be truthful and be visionary. And then enact your words each and every day into your administration as you and your team serve our state.
History treated former Governor Rockefeller ever so kindly. It will do you as well, Mr. Governor-elect, if you’ll follow his lead.