MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Kay Ivey stood before a crowd and looked out across historic Dexter Avenue during a cool Monday morning, placed her hand on a Bible and took the oath of office that officially kicked off her first full term as the state’s 54th governor.
The grand Alabama Capitol served as the backdrop to the occasion. A bright, red carpet unfolded down the marble steps and ended just behind the podium where, at least from the view of a television screen, Ivey tended to blend in.
But as she moves on from the completion of what would have been her predecessor’s final term had he not resigned and propelled her into the office, Kay Ivey has no intentions to blend in.
“Like most of my predecessors, my pathway to this spot was certainly not predetermined or even likely. After all, when I was growing up in my hometown of Camden, little girls simply didn’t dream of growing up to one day be elected Governor,” she stated.
Now, Ivey holds the office outright having won it handily against her challenger in the latest state elections.
As she read from her speech, Ivey welcomed former governors - including her controversial predecessor - previous lieutenant governors, dignitaries, and others including Jeff Sessions, a former U.S. senator and U.S. attorney general.
And then there was an empty chair. It was in honor of the late Gov. Lurleen Burns Wallace, the state’s first female governor and a childhood hero of Ivey’s.
“Although she is not with us in person, her spirit, life and legacy live on to this day,” Ivey said. “In her memory, I’ve requested that an empty chair be placed on the platform. We are honored to have her daughter Peggy with us today representing the Wallace family.”
Ivey, as governors have done previously, spoke of the state’s past and of its future.
“We must never forget where we’ve come from nor how much progress we’ve made,” the governor said, though admitting “we would be less than honest with each other if we did not acknowledge that change has not always come easily...We are reminded of two different chapters in Alabama history: a time when the Civil War raged and 90 years later when the Civil Rights movement was inspired.”
From her position at the podium, the historic location of her speech was not lost on the governor. She could see Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church just a block away.
“It was at a pulpit just down the street that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so powerfully taught us how to confront struggles with honest, courage, and love,” she added.
And then Ivey pivoted to the future, using the occasion to remind Alabamians while they helped launch not only the program that put man on the moon, they’re at the forefront of building the rockets that will power humans to Mars and beyond.
And Ivey reminded Alabamians of the changes that have come in just the last quarter century from producing not a single vehicle or airplane to becoming “one of the largest automotive producing states with soon-to-be five global automotive companies" and a prediction that “in just a few short years, Mobile will become one of the top four cities in the world where large, commercial aircraft are assembled.”
Ivey’s speech touched on familiar themes, better educations, better roads, better paying jobs and prison reform. She also urged Alabamians to look to the coming census. “That’s the only way to make certain that ‘Alabama Counts’ when it matters most,” Ivey said.
“With your help and with God’s amazing grace, the next four years will not only mark the beginning of our third century, they’ll be the foundation for our best years to come,” the governor concluded.
You can watch the other inaugural speeches below: