Perdue challenges N.C. to maintain high expectations
Posted January 10, 2009 9:20 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Minutes after making history by becoming North Carolina's first female chief executive, Gov. Beverly Perdue urged people to confront economic challenges head on and move the state forward.
"Now is not the time for us to hunker down," Perdue said in her inaugural address. "We cannot just cut back, and I will not lower my expectations for ... the people of North Carolina."
A crowd estimated at more than 5,000 people gathered outside the state Division of Archives and History building on a bright, chilly morning to watch Perdue and the other nine members of the Council of State stand in front of the giant state and U.S. flags and take their oaths of office, given by justices of the North Carolina Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
Three former governors, state lawmakers, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, military leaders and other dignitaries were among the crowd.
“We’re so excited about having the first woman governor of North Carolina. It’s long overdue,” said Irene Hooper, who traveled from Jackson County to see the inauguration.
The event was filled with pomp, including music from the 440th Army National Guard Band, a military jet flyover by pilots from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, a 19-gun salute by Marines from Camp Lejeune and a poetry reading by actor and North Carolina native Andy Griffith.
Perdue cited successes in North Carolina history, from the creation of the nation's first public university to Research Triangle Park to the development of NASCAR from guys hauling moonshine through the mountains. The state has always faced down its challenges and cannot back down in the current tough times, she said.
"Our history books tell story after story of bold acts of leadership that brought hope and progress to our people," she said. "We will ... accept this time of challenges as an opportunity to think big, dig deep and push ahead.
"What we do over the next four years will define our future."
Perdue, a former teacher, said she remains committed to education, noting she would support a seamless system "from the high chair to the rocking chair."
She also called for increased efficiency and more accountability in state government and pledged that she would take the lead in reforming agencies that have been plagued by problems in recent years, including Health and Human Services, Correction and Transportation.
"We must take an outdated 20th century bureaucracy and move it into the 21 century," she said. "The people's problems will be solved when we listen to them."
She told the crowd she cannot do it alone and asked for the public's help. North Carolinians need to work together and support their neighbors and friends to pull through a bad economy and lay the foundation for future growth.
"Even in these trying times, the American dream is alive. It lives in the hard work, sheer determination and sacrifice of our people," she said. "Together, we can race boldly toward our future."
After the inauguration, a parade featuring high school marching bands, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, members of the Council of State and Congress, university mascots, dance and jump-rope teams and military groups headed up Fayetteville Street and around the State Capitol.
The inaugural festivities concluded Saturday afternoon with an open house at the Governor's Mansion, where Perdue was able to greet many of her constituents.
"Bev Perdue being the first female governor, that was history, as well as the election of Obama. So, we just wanted to be apart of it," said Pat Jones, one of the thousands who lined up to meet Perdue.