Gov. Haley promises jobs, recovery in inaugural address
Amid melting snow and freezing temperatures, Nikki Haley took the oath of office as governor Wednesday, becoming South Carolina’s first female and Indian-American governor.
“Today is a great day in South Carolina. It’s a day for new beginnings. It’s a day to turn the page from the past. And it’s a day filled with anticipation of the next chapter of our state’s future,” Haley said in the beginning of her inaugural address.
Haley struck an optimistic tone toward issues the state is currently facing, including high unemployment rates and an unprecedented budget shortfall.
“When I survey this troubled landscape, I am not discouraged,” Haley said. “We know that tough times can produce some of the best decisions, and it is our duty to make this time of challenge into the opportunity it can be to turn our state around.”
Robert Oldendick, a government and international studies professor at USC, said this inauguration is historically significant for South Carolina.
“It’s historic in the sense it’s a first,” Oldendick said. “It shows that the state of South Carolina is changing, that something like this probably would not have happened 20, even 10, years ago.”
In addition to Haley being female and Indian-American, Oldendick added she is now the youngest sitting governor in the United States. Oldendick also said her ability to lead, work with the General Assembly and tackle significant issues — particularly the state budget — are going to be more important than the fact she is an Indian-American female.
“When you talk about historical significance, well, the state really is facing a budget deficit of historical proportions, and how that gets addressed is really going to be much more important for the future of the state than any particular characteristics that she might have,” Oldendick said.
Haley focused on the opportunities to solutions the current issues have created.
“In the days, weeks and months ahead, we have the opportunity to reduce state spending and make it more efficient. We have the opportunity to improve education and allow our children to be successful regardless of where they’re born,” Haley said. “We have the opportunity to strengthen our small businesses to help them create the jobs our people need. We have the opportunity to restructure our state government — To make it more transparent, more accountable and more respectful of the people of South Carolina.”
Numerous dignitaries attended the inauguration. Rep. Joe Wilson and Sen. Lindsey Graham represented the state’s federal lawmakers. They were joined by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who replaced outgoing South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association after Sanford’s infidelity with an Argentine news reporter was revealed in June of 2009. Barbour is widely expected to be a Republican candidate for president in the 2012 election.
Freezing weather did not stop the ceremony, but it was delayed during the processional when Lance Cpl. P.G. Gullett, a protective services officer for the inauguration, collapsed on the Statehouse steps. An announcement was made asking for a doctor, and emergency personnel rushed to assist him. An ambulance later arrived, and it was announced that medical staff said he would be fine.
Foreign ambassadors also attended the event, including Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar. Haley remarked on her Indian heritage during her speech and said she was raised to believe blessings and happiness came from hard work and strong values.
“I stand before you today the proud daughter of Indian immigrants,” Haley said. “Growing up in rural, small-town South Carolina, my family experienced this state and this country at its best.”
Haley also talked about her mother, Raj Randhawa, who was offered the first female judgeship in her home country. However, Randhawa wasn’t able to serve on the bench because being a woman in India was challenging.
Himali Shah, a fourth-year international studies student and president of the International Student Association, said Haley’s Indian heritage was not substantially significant to her taking office. But Shah said Haley managed to get elected without a family history in American politics was special.
“It’s really not any different than any random other person running for office,” Shah said. “She was able to do it without any kind of background. She was able to become governor of South Carolina. There are ways and opportunities for anyone to run for office.”
The 11 a.m. inaugural ceremony was preceded by a one-hour prayer service at the historic Trinity Episcopal Cathedral across from the Statehouse. Citadel bagpipe players and clergy escorted a procession of Haley’s and Lt. Gov. Ken Ard’s families and former Gov. Mark Sanford alone down the aisle. The ceremony featured six different pastors from across the state, including Rev. Jeff Kersey of Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church in Haley’s hometown of Lexington. Kersey also gave the invocation for the inauguration.
The day’s proceedings ended with a formal inauguration gala at the Colonial Life Arena Wednesday evening.