The 2015 Texas inauguration began with the first 2018 campaign speech.
On a day usually reserved for the pomp and circumstance of orderly Republican regime change, the gun salute was upstaged by loose cannon Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Mugging for the cameras and taking selfies onstage, Patrick hammed it up through a bombastic speech, shouting “I praise Jesus!” and staging a loud pep rally for school vouchers, lower property taxes and a border crackdown.
It was a sharp contrast from the rest of the ceremony, which opened with a San Antonio parochial girls’ school choir singing what must have been the extended dance club remix of Texas, Our Texas.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s speech was gentle and modest. He spent half of it thanking family members, including “the most famous mother-in-law in Texas,” Maria de la Luz Segura Phalen.
Amid a touching retelling of the accident that left him unable to walk, he quoted the contemporary inspirational song You Raise Me Up:
I am strong when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up to more than I can be.
At stage left, about 20 guests in wheelchairs listened from a special reserved section.
“That a paraplegic can lead one of the largest states in the country — that is going to be an inspiration for people with disabilities everywhere,” said Bob Kafka of ADAPT, a disability-rights group.
“We have many differences with the governor,” said Kafka, 69, of Austin.
“He’s against Medicaid expansion, and he has supported states’ rights over the [Americans With Disabilities Act]. But he seems willing to hear us. His staff arranged this section.”
A man nodded from the next row.
“If you don’t show up on days like this, politicians don’t listen to you,” said David Wittie, 58, of Austin.
“I hope he’ll improve access to the Capitol.”
(For his own inauguration, Abbott had to come in the back. The north door has the only wheelchair ramp.)
On 11th Street in front of the Capitol, souvenir vendor James Bragg sold mostly Abbott buttons and “Run Ted Run” buttons for presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
Nobody had bought a “Rick Perry for President” button.
“People are tired of him,” Bragg said. “They say we need new people.”
There were no buttons for Patrick. Yet.
Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.