Posted: Jan. 15, 2013


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

In a land whose indomitable character was chiseled by the sacrifice at Valley Forge, the threat of rain sent Delaware's inaugural ceremonies scurrying inside.

Not even rain itself. Just a drab day in January with a hint of drizzle that a dog would not have bothered to shake off.

What in the name of Tom Paine was this? An assembly of summer soldiers and sunshine patriots?

It was a letdown, particularly because this ceremony was all but crying to assert itself outdoors. The event lasted a well-paced hour and distinguished itself as a call to the citizenry to commit to state and country, but never mind.

The inauguration for the second terms of Jack Markell and Matt Denn, the Democratic governor and lieutenant governor, was moved Tuesday from the grounds of Legislative Hall in Dover about a mile away to the auditorium of the Central Middle School.

It is not like official Delaware does not know how to brazen out wet weather. There was an unrelenting belt of rain in 2010 for Return Day, the customary post-election reconciliation two days later in Georgetown, and the law firm of Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor came to the rescue and armed seemingly everyone with burgundy umbrellas. It probably could have happened again.

Not that inaugurations are necessarily held outside, although it is mostly the tradition nowadays.

Ruth Ann Minner, the Democratic governor from 2001 to 2009, took her oath on the steps inside Legislative Hall when she moved up from lieutenant governor so Tom Carper could leave the governorship to assume office as a Democratic senator. For the two terms Minner won in her own right, however, the inaugurations were held outside Legislative Hall.

Not to mention Markell was actually inside four years ago for his first swearing-in. The political calendar made him do it, because it was one of those times when the state inauguration on the third Tuesday in January coincided with the federal inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009.

There were any number of Delawareans -- including Markell himself -- who wanted to attend both, not only because of the historic breakthrough of Barack Obama's presidency, but because Joe Biden, the state's favorite son, was alongside. Markell took his oath inside Mitchell Hall at the University of Delaware at midnight, went to Washington, and then held a traditional outdoor inauguration in Dover the next day.

The 2013 oath-taking drew a modest crowd of about 400 people, possibly dampened because of the weather but more likely because of Second Inaugural Syndrome. It is not as if it has not happened before.

Still, the ceremony shone with elements the state holds dear. The Future Farmers of America were ushers. The Delaware State Police posted the colors. A band from the National Guard played. The University of Delaware was represented by a music major who sang, and Delaware State University provided Harry Williams, its president, as the master of ceremonies.

Mike Castle, the Republican governor from 1985 to 1993, was there, and so was Jeanne Tribbitt, the widow of Sherman Tribbitt, the Democratic governor from 1973 to 1977. A band from Newark High School, the alma mater of both the governor and the first lady, performed.

Markell and Denn both spoke about the renewal of the Republic from generation to generation.

Denn was the first to take his oath, administered by Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden, both of them former partners at Young Conaway. Markell was sworn in by Myron Steele, the chief justice.

Denn brought along special guests and made them the centerpiece of his remarks. They were Specialist Zach Koppes, Specialist Cody Floyd and Sergeant Jonathon Hill, soldiers together in a desperately heroic firefight, outnumbered and outgunned by the Taliban, near the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.

"Our country took too little notice of what these men did," Denn said. "Their presence reminds us that we have a sacred obligation. To those who have sacrificed for us. To the generation that follows us. An obligation to lay a foundation for greatness."

It is hard to say whether the crowd gave Markell or the soldiers the most applause of the day.

Markell in his address also spoke about the mystic chords connecting the generations -- from the Founding generation through the Civil War generation, the Greatest Generation and the Civil Rights generation to the current generation and the ones to come.

"We are parties to an unspoken compact. As our ancestors have done for us, so must we do for posterity. Enjoy the blessings that have been bestowed upon us, but multiply them in turn for those whose time is yet to come," Markell said.

He pledged to sustain the Delawareans leading lives of quiet desperation in the jagged economy, to promote equality for all committed couples, regardless of sexual orientation, and to provide a sound education and environmental stewardship for the state's children.

The problem with all inaugurations here is they end with "Our Delaware," the state song that has such a chortling, oompah beat, it is like it should be sung by following the bouncing ball.

If nothing else, the chorus with the reference to the "loyal son" should be changed to say, "Here's the loyal one that pledges/Faith to good old Delaware."

It was done. People went outside to a droopy, dry sky. Oh, for the days when it was said, "Give me liberty or give me death." Not "Rain, rain, go away."