The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday February 8th

New Governor Heralds Unity as Key to Future

More than 4,000 people, some wearing fur coats to ward off the cold, gathered in downtown Raleigh to witness the historic inauguration. Easley is the first baby boomer and practicing Roman Catholic to serve as governor. He is also the first governor in more than 25 years not named James.

Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, also sworn in Saturday, is the state's first female lieutenant governor.

The inauguration was billed as One North Carolina -- a theme repeated throughout Easley's inaugural address.

"We must remember that North Carolina is more than a collection of regions and people," he said. "We are one state, one people, one family, bound by a common concern for each other."

Easley said economic growth, which has caused some portions of the state to prosper and others to stagnate, is dividing the state.

"Over the past century, our state has prospered," he said. "But our prosperity, unfortunately, has been selective. Many communities have strong and robust economies, while others languish."

Easley also said the lack of Internet access is isolating rural regions.

"Just as the past generation had the courage to reach across the racial divide to bring all people together for morality and progress, this generation must reach across the digital divide to join together all communities in a stronger statewide economy," he said.

But Easley, as he noted in his address, faces several challenges, including a $486 million budget deficit and a House with only a four-seat Democratic majority.

Eight other state officials were sworn in Saturday, including Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, State Auditor Ralph Campbell, Attorney General Roy Cooper, Insurance Commissioner Jim Long, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, State Treasurer Richard Moore, Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps and Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Ward.

Easley also took the time to recognize former leaders of the state who are stepping down this year, such as four-term governor Jim Hunt and Jim Graham, who served 36 years as agriculture commissioner.

Famous native son and actor Andy Griffith also took part in the inauguration, delivering the N.C. State Toast.

After the Saturday swearing-in, there was a parade through downtown Raleigh, special exhibits at state museums and a reception at the Governor's Mansion.

Robert Evans of Cary attended the inauguration with his son, Alex, 7.

Alex said he enjoyed watching the parade and seeing the dinosaur exhibit at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. "I think the drums were really neat," he said. "But the T-Rex skull with the big teeth was neater."

Robert said he attended the inauguration mainly to take his son to the museums but also to listen to Easley's inaugural address. "With a son in school, I favor anything that will improve the quality of education in public schools," Robert said. "After listening to (Easley) speak, I'm sure he'll continue Hunt's reforms."

During the address, Easley emphasized his support for Hunt's First in America program, a blueprint for the state's schools to be the top in the nation by 2010. "Others may ask who are we to dare to be the best, but we must ask ourselves who are we not to be the best?"

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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