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Story Archives: Inaugural memories
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I can vividly remember standing on the floor of the House of Representatives at the state capitol as Edwin Edwards took the oath office as governor for his third term.
The year was 1984.
Daddy took me to Baton Rouge to witness it. He arranged for me to take pictures for his newspapers, which allowed me to walk freely throughout the House chamber. For a 14-year-old who was keenly interested in politics, I was in my element.
Or so I thought at the time.
Having been elected in a landslide on a platform promising the people the good times would roll again, Edwards recited the oath in English and French. His right hand was raised; his left hand rested on a Bible his brother Marion held. It's difficult to recall in which language Edwards recited first in taking the oath, but I remember the people in attendance that day were floored that Edwards never missed a beat in speaking fluently in French, which he learned as a boy. I was awestruck as well.
The details of Edwards' inaugural speech of '84 are lost on me now. I believe they had something to do with returning Louisiana to the heyday that existed when Edwards left office four years earlier.
When Edwards stepped aside in 1980—barred from running for re-election in 1979 because of term limits—Louisiana was enjoying a robust period economically. The oil patch was booming; farmers were doing well, too.
Nineteen eighty-four was a different story.
The state was on the verge of sinking into a recession that rivaled the worst days of the Great Depression. That's somewhat of a stretch but not far from it.
For some reason, though, the atmosphere at the inauguration surrounding Edwards' return to grace for a third term is burned into my memory. The people were ecstatic as if they were awaiting a savior. That's what Edwards promised in his campaign to unseat Dave Treen.
Little did the people know some of Louisiana's darkest days would arrive soon. The oil bust was on its way.
Earlier this week when Bobby Jindal took the oath to become the youngest governor in the United States and Louisiana's first non-white governor since Reconstruction, the atmosphere at the capitol was a stark contrast to the one that greeted Edwards some 24 years ago.
The Jindal affair was all business.
At least that's the impression I got watching the events unfold on television.
That attitude would be in line with the temperament Jindal exhibited on the campaign trail over the past two years. It also was a reflection of the approach the Jindal team pursued in the transition period following the Oct. 20 election.
While the message Jindal conveyed in his inaugural speech focused for the most part on the statements he emphasized in the campaign, we would do well to remember that Jindal talked Monday about "comprehensive ethics reform."
We've been hearing about "ethics reform" for months.
"Comprehensive ethics reform" is a new one.
The word "comprehensive" is notable. It would indicate Jindal has plans to push for ethics reform in all levels of government, from the courthouse to the state house.
We'll see come Feb. 10 when the Legislature convenes for a special session to talk about ethics.
Yet, there's a hint of irony in it all in comparing the Edwards inauguration of '84 to the Jindal affair in 2008.
When Edwards took office the inaugural activities were moved indoors because of inclement weather outside. It was gloomy; rain was falling.
Jindal, on the other hand, enjoyed a bright, cool, sunny day. The weather itself was optimistic.
Maybe it was telling us something.
Regular readers of this column may be wondering why it was necessary to compare Edwards to Jindal.
There's a reason.
This week—Jan. 15 to be exact—marked two years since daddy's death.
Memories of time spent with daddy come to mind often these days.
Attending the Edwards inauguration in 1984 is one of them.
All the while as Jindal delivered his speech Monday in Baton Rouge, I kept wondering what daddy would think.