Jared S. Polis took the oath of office Tuesday, becoming the nation’s first openly gay man elected as governor and Colorado’s first Jewish chief executive.
The Democrat from Boulder is the state’s 43rd governor and his partner, Marlon Reis, is the state’s first first gentleman.
The ceremony took place on the Capitol steps under banners that proclaimed “Colorado for All,” and Polis, 43, outlined a vision for the state and his administration for the next four years.
Here’s a look at five highlights from the inauguration:
1. The nation’s first openly gay governor
The entire swearing-in ceremony was themed around the historic nature of Polis’ election as governor and what it means for breaking down barriers for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities.
“I must begin by saying I’m very conscious of the fact that there were many brave people over the years who made it possible for someone like me to be standing here giving a speech like this,” Polis said at the start of his inaugural address.
Many of the performers at the inauguration noted the historic milestone, including the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus and the invocation by the Rev. Dr. James Peters Jr., who in 1965 marched on Selma, Alabama, with Martin Luther King Jr. Poetry recitations by experimental poet Anne Waldman, arrested with Allen Ginsberg and Daniel Ellsberg in the 1970s while protesting Rocky Flats, and Toluwanimi Obiwole focused on breaking down barriers for all people.
“The more you live fully as yourself the more space you make for others to do the same,” Obiwole said in her poem. “… Now is the time to treat our dreams as life’s instructions.”
Daniel Ramos, executive director of the LGBTQ rights organization One Colorado, said it’s hard to overstate the importance of Polis’ inauguration.
“I think for many of us, there are times that we had no idea that we would see this in our lifetimes,” he said. “Folks who back in the day were thinking they would never see marriage equality in their lifetime … and now we just inaugurated our first openly gay governor in Colorado. It’s this symbol of all of the work that we have done, all of the progress that we made. It’s also an homage to all the people that have come before us.”
He added: “On top of being a huge moment for Colorado, it is also a major milestone for the LGBTQ community across the country. People are looking to Colorado at a time when LGBTQ folks are under attack at unprecedented levels because they know we can continue to lead.”
Polis is also Colorado’s first Jewish governor, which was acknowledged with the Hebrew prayer and song bestowed upon him as he assumed office.
2. Polis makes nod to history as he outlines bold new approach
Polis highlighted the historic occasion at the start of his inaugural address on the west steps of the Capitol and added that “diversity makes our state healthier and more prosperous.”
He contrasted his election to the tone in Washington, saying Colorado chose a different path for the “period of growing divisiveness and rising tribalism.”
Returning to the theme of his speech, Polis said the state has “embraced the idea that, of course, no two people are exactly alike, and we have decided to celebrate our differences, they make us stronger: Colorado for All.”
In the 14-minute speech, Polis also outlined his governing doctrine, declaring that his administration “will always view problems as solutions waiting to happen” and value “bold ideas and new approaches.”
The remarks underscore that Polis is poised to take the state in a different direction than his predecessor, Gov. John Hickenlooper, who favored a moderate, incremental approach.
“We will never be slowed by indecision or held back by fear,” Polis said.
3. Gov. John Hickenlooper says goodbye
The term-limited Hickenlooper struck a nostalgic tone in his farewell address, remembering the struggles and triumphs of his eight years in office.
Hickenlooper recounted the auspicious start at his 2011 inauguration, a day that it was too cold for the Air National Guard to conduct a flyover at the Capitol. He said it stood as a metaphor for Colorado’s failure to launch.
He inherited a billion-dollar budget deficit and a state that ranked 40th in job creation. And then Colorado endured devastating floods and wildfires. “Those first four years were the hardest,” Hickenlooper said.
Hickenlooper then pivoted to outline his administration’s top achievements, including a restarted economy and a cleaner environment.
But Hickenlooper — who is nearing a 2020 presidential bid — acknowledged that significant challenges remain, and he said Polis “is just the person to lead us.”
With four other previous Colorado governors looking on, Hickenlooper joked about returning home as a “private citizen of Colorado.”
“Thank you for taking a chance on me,” he said.
4. Other new leaders make more history
Polis wasn’t the only person to make history on Tuesday.
Jena Griswold was sworn in as Colorado’s first female Democrat secretary of state. Democrat Phil Weiser, meanwhile, became the first Jewish person to be Colorado’s attorney general.
Democrat Dave Young was sworn in as treasurer.
With Polis, Griswold, Weiser and Young taking their oaths, and both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly in the hands of Democrats, the party has officially taken control of all branches of state government for the first time since 1936.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity to make real difference in the lives of Coloradans,” Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat, said in ending the inauguration ceremony. “And we will.”
5. Security was tight
The Colorado Sun reported earlier that security around Polis has been heightened since he won the gubernatorial election given that he’s Jewish and gay. Tuesday was no exception.
Polis and his family, when seated, were positioned behind what appeared to be protective glass throughout the event. No other attendee had similar protection. (Representatives for the new governor said they didn’t know what the glass was or why it was there.)
Also, there were countless Colorado State Patrol troopers watching over the swearing in. One approached a Colorado Sun reporter who had his hand in a jacket pocket on a chilly day, and asked him to remove it because it looked like he was holding a gun.
All attendees had to go through a metal detector before entering the areas nearest to Polis.
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