By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
In her first State of the State address, Gov. Kay Ivey hit all the right notes, even when evoking legendary composer Johann Sebastian Bach’s statement on why he wrote music.
Ivey rightfully took credit for righting the ship of state as she promised at her swearing-in ceremony nine months ago.
Perhaps most striking – her message was inclusive, not simply pandering to the most extreme elements of the Republican base. Throughout the 40 minute speech, she spoke about “we” and “us,” not “us versus them.” Even the stagecraft spoke to diversity with Democrat Congressional leaders Sen. Linda Coleman and Anthony Daniels sharing the diocese.
One line from Ivey’s presentation points directly to the heart of Tuesday night’s message.
“Despite our differences, despite our varying viewpoints, despite party labels, I sincerely believe we all have one common goal – to each play our part in making Alabama a better place to live, raise and educate our children, own a home and create jobs and business opportunities.”
While ticking off a laundry list of accomplishments, and perhaps taking a little more credit than she was due, Ivey recognized the importance of the state leaders working together.
“When I came into office, the relationship between the Executive and Legislative branches was strained – but that too has been corrected. I have worked closely with legislative leadership, and the Senate and House budget chairs, to draft fiscally responsible budgets. We’ve righted the ship of state; now, my proposed budgets will move Alabama in the right direction.”
Ivey looked healthy and even radiant as she opened her speech giving reference to Monday night’s National College Football Championship playoff where Alabama scored a comeback victory against Georgia. “What a game,” the governor proclaimed to a standing ovation.
In the back of the old Senate Chambers, Ivey’s chief of staff looked on obviously pleased with how his boss controlled the moment.
Ivey could have given a campaign speech, but she and her staff chose to treat the evening as an occasion to showcase her as governor of the state and not a party, and by all accounts, it was a success. She did burnish her conservative credentials but only so much as it made a point without glorifying her image as other governors have sought to do. Neither did she claim a holy mantle of divine appointment or cite her individual greatness – a refreshing departure from the past.
Ivey, like many of the nation’s founders, evoked nature’s God while calling elected officials to ask themselves why they served.
“Why do you serve?” Ivey asked. “Why did you swear an oath to support this nation and our great state at all costs?”
Ivey told a story of when Bach was asked why he was driven to write music. Bach answered, “for the Glory of God and the good of mankind.”
That was the ultimate challenge Ivey issued during her first State of the State address, and it is one we should all well consider before entering the halls of government.