By John Celock
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) stuck to a conservative theme in his second term inaugural address as he said he wanted to focus on “the crisis of the family”.
Brownback used his address during a Monday ceremony in Topeka to focus on what he says is the Kansas spirit and to strengthen families in the Sunflower State. The speech stuck to more conservative themes, saying that family can do more to grow the country than government.
“At its core the renewal of America, comes down to the family. No government should ever be big enough to substitute for the family. While many of our problems are economic and we will be second to none in addressing them, the reality is the solutions are principally cultural and moral,” Brownback said. “While it isn’t always easy to talk about, we should be talking about our culture and its renewal. We should be talking about things like character and courage. Faith and freedom. Sacrifice of self. Morals. Obligations and Responsibilities. Not as dictated by government, but as emitting from our hearts alive with a loving God.”
Brownback said that he wants to focus his second term making Kansas the best state to create a small business and start a family, themes that continue over from his first term. Brownback said that he believes the two themes can go together saying “Lack of healthy families leads to lack of growth in the economy.”
Brownback also cited a need to focus on reduction of childhood poverty.
“Lack of healthy families is a big part of poverty in our state and nation. We must substantially reduce childhood poverty,” he said. “A big piece of that will be to strengthen healthy marriage and family. It also involves work and education.”
Brownback did not focus on specifics in his address, sticking to broader themes. He is scheduled to deliver his annual State of the State Address on Thursday to the Legislature, where he is expected to outline his proposals on the state budget and school finance, topics which are expected to top the agenda of lawmakers in Topeka.
While Brownback focused on what he said is growth in the state, including citing the state’s motto “Ad Astra per Aspera” and how the state has grown. With the motto translated to “To the stars with difficulties,” he also said that there have been difficulties, but stuck to his conservative theme.
The people of Kansas are always realistic. So we must be honest too. There have been difficulties. Too many people have not progressed in recent years, in many cases held back by an economy that is growing too slowly or an overly paternalistic big government.” He said. “Too many people feel excluded or unprepared to pursue their American dream. Or believe that dream simply doesn’t exist for them anymore. They have lost hope.”
One of the most anti-abortion governors in the country, Brownback cited the need to focus on unborn children as part of a section of the address that included a need to focus on all people, including the elderly and those who are suffering.
Brownback, who narrowly defeated Democrat Paul Davis in November, did not mention the tax cuts he pushed through during his first term or the state’s budget deficit during the upbeat speech.
Brownback headed an inaugural slate that included an all-Republican line-up of state constitutional officers. He was sworn-in alongside Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Treasurer Ron Estes, who all started their second terms. Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer started his first term, succeeding Republican Sandy Praeger. In addition, members of the state Board of Education, state Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court were sworn-in.
Selzer’s swearing in marked the first time since April of 1966 that no woman has held a statewide constitutional office in Kansas.
Selzer’s assumption of the insurance commissioner’s post also solidifies the conservative Republican dominance of Kansas politics. Praeger, who held the post for 12 years and is allied with former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D), is a moderate Republican. Praeger was among the moderate Republicans to endorse Davis over Brownback in the governor’s race.
Brownback kicked off his speech by recognizing Mary Eisenhower, the granddaughter of former President Dwight Eisenhower, a native of Abilene, Ks. Mary Eisenhower was a co-chair of Brownback’s reelection campaign and helped reach out to more moderate Republicans on the governor’s behalf.
In the speech, Brownback said that state lawmakers need to focus on the legacy of the 34th president and his leadership style.
“Strong leadership, moving forward, working together, the Dwight Eisenhower way,” Brownback said.
Brownback used the address and ceremony to focus on the state’s traditions and history, noting the pioneer and farming spirit depicted in the state seal. The ceremony included the governor being presented with gifts from the state’s Native American tribes and a ceremony recognizing his role as commander of the state’s National Guard and the Kansas Highway Patrol. Brownback also included a cowboy poem in this year’s ceremony.
Brownback kept headed back to the state’s history during the speech saying it is leading the state forward.
“I am here to tell you today, my friends, despite every challenge, despite every difficulty, despite whatever may come, in Kansas we are still aiming high, to the stars,” he said. “We are headed to a renewed, stronger culture, to better days. And as in the past, we will take America with us. The future of Kansas is strong.”