Commentary: Perdue begins her term

This editorial appeared in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

Beverly Eaves Perdue, who will turn 62 on Wednesday, soared through a "glass ceiling" and into North Carolina's governorship yesterday. It was a sun-splashed day in downtown Raleigh, filled will old-fashioned North Carolina symbolism and tradition. Happy political supporters, long-time neighbors from New Bern and Chapel Hill and parents with school-age children assembled in front of the state archives and history building for patriotic songs, a flyover of F-15 jets, prayers and a 19-gun salute. This was history, after all.

And yes, the state's beloved native son, actor Andy Griffith, was on hand to read a poem written by his wife, Cindi.

North Carolina inaugurated its 73rd governor (since statehood) in Tar Heel style, with a swearing-in ceremony for members of the Council of State, new Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and Perdue. An open house at the Governor's Mansion and parade followed.

Perdue sounded some familiar but important themes in her short speech. Aware that as the first woman governor, she evokes some joyful feelings and historic echoes, she reckoned her "new beginning" is "more than symbolic." Rather, she said, it is a chance to promote "opportunity for all who live here."

The new governor cited the state's many successes, from the Research Triangle Park to the development of NASCAR to the biotech industry as evidence of its strength. And, she said, "we will not lower expectations." Just as the two governors who preceded her, Mike Easley and Jim Hunt, focused on education, so Perdue said her "most important role is to remain true to our commitment to education."

Yesterday was, as such days always are, a time for optimism and good hopes for a new governor, and a monument to our orderly democracy, in which power passes from one chief executive to another without chaos or rancor.

Perdue worked her way up to her oath-taking in a tough climb, it might be said, from state House member to senator to lieutenant governor, where she served the last eight years in a job that has been loosely defined and often has left occupants with time to fill.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Raleigh) News & Observer.