“Colorado for All,” the theme of last Tuesday’s inauguration of Gov. Jared S. Polis, permeated the entire event, from the ecumenical line-up of religious speakers and the words they offered, to the inclusive address delivered by the newly sworn-in governor.
Colorado’s first Jewish governor and the people of Colorado received words of blessing from Rev. James D. Peters of New Hope Baptist Church, a leader of the Sikh community, Terry Knight, spiritual leader of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Rabbi Susan Miller Rheins of Temple Sinai. All in their own spiritual languages expressed their prayers for Polis to fulfill his promise of a government that serves the needs and respects the values of all Coloradans, regardless of differences.
This hope was also conveyed by poet Anne Waldman of Naropa University as she read her poem, “The Beautiful Negative Ions of Governance.”
Sitting together on the platform on the West Steps of the State Capitol were Colorado’s living former governors, Richard Lamm, Roy Romer, Bill Owens, Bill Ritter and John Hickenlooper.
Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan B. Coats swore in the new constitutional office holders: Secretary of State Jenna M. Griswold, Treasurer Dave Young and Attorney General Phil Weiser.
Weiser, the first Jew to be elected Colorado attorney general, took the oath on a siddur held by his wife Dr. Heidi Wald, and was the only official who swore “to the ever-living G-d” in his oath. None of the other oaths contained a reference to G-d.
Hickenlooper, in his last speech as governor, recalled the first four of his eight years in office as “the worst,” naming drought, wildfires, the Aurora theater shooting and the floods. “I saw that the good was not broken . . . not a single broken spirit.”
Hickenlooper then pointed to the state’s dramatic economic growth since the recession of a decade ago and the successful efforts to clean up Colorado’s air.
He called Colorado “a mountain of opportunity,” although “the challenges never go away.”
“Jared Polis is just the person to lead us into the future,” he concluded.
After Hickenlooper’s farewell address, Chief Justice Coats administered the oath of office to Lt. Gov. Diane Primavera, and then to Polis, who was accompanied by Marlon Reis and their children Caspian and Cora.
Polis spoke about the “growing divisiveness” and “growing tribalism” in national politics, “but here in Colorado, we choose to take a different path. We reject divisive politics.
“There is no reason to let our differences divide us. Our differences make us stronger. We complement one another.”
Polis acknowledged and thanked former Governors Lamm, Romer, Owens and Ritter, as well as the immediate past administration of Hickenlooper, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynn, Secretary of State Wayne Williams, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and Treasurer Walker Stapleton, whom he defeated in the race for governor.
He also expressed gratitude to his parents Steven and Susan Polis Schutz for moving to Colorado in 1970, and his great-grandparents who immigrated to the US through Ellis Island “to fulfill their dreams.
“My parents’ story was what the American dream is all about,” he said. “They taught us to dream big.”
Polis pointed to his own successes in business, as well as creating a charter school in Boulder and becoming a congressman from Colorado. “Naysayers lit a fire in me that would lead me to success.
“If you have a bold idea that you believe in, fight for it. Anything is possible in our great state and in our great country.”
Rabbi Susan Miller Rheins closed out the ceremony with a prayer for the newly sworn-in officials:
“Endow them with insight and good judgement as they address the complex issues that challenge our society. Strengthen them with fortitude and confidence in their noble endeavors. Entrust them to be mindful of the universal morals and values that supersede partisan concerns, to remember that all people are created b’tzelem El-him, in the Divine image, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Inspire our leaders to govern with kindness and compassion, to pursue justice and right, to seek fairness and equality, to lead by example, so that our State truly will be ‘Colorado for All.’
“G-d, we also ask for Your blessing upon the families of those who govern the State of Colorado. Imbue them with patience and understanding and with the knowledge that support of their loved ones is vital to the well-being of our state.”
After she concluded her benediction with “Amen,” Rabbi Rheins turned to the new governor and wished him “Mazel Tov” — a first at at Colorado gubernatorial inauguration.
HEA’s Rabbis Bruce Dollin and Salomon Gruenwald beamed with pride as their congregation’s Shir Chadash singers ended the program with a highly spirited rendition of Oseh Shalom, the popular passage from the siddur expressing the yearning for peace.
Larry Hankin may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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