Democrat Wes Moore was sworn into office as Maryland’s 63rd governor on Wednesday, amid promises to improve nearly every facet of life for the state’s residents, from better schools to cleaner air to more job opportunities.
The far-reaching pledges were optimistic on a day full of hope in the state capital, as Moore became Maryland’s first Black governor and flipped control of the executive branch from Republican to Democratic. And the new governor acknowledged the deep racial divides in Maryland, rooted in slavery and continuing to inequities today.
“It is time for our policies to be as bold as our aspirations — and to confront the fact that we have been offered false choices,” Moore said during a ceremony on the steps of the State House. “We do not have to choose between a competitive economy and an equitable one.”
Moore made bold promises in his speech, including ensuring that Maryland is both “a safe state and a just state.” He also pledged to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and to put the state “on track” to have 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2035.
Moore also said the state will have “high-quality, highly-inclusive” public schools that recognize “that there are many paths to success and fulfillment.” And he repeated his campaign promise of offering a program for high school graduates to spend a year doing community service work.
After a long campaign season and transition in which he made many promises, Moore now is in a position to deliver on them. He has on his side Democratic leaders and an overwhelming Democratic majority in both chambers of the state legislature. He also inherits a budget flush with a multibillion-dollar surplus.
Democratic lawmakers were thrilled to welcome Moore as the state’s next governor after eight years with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who they disagreed with more often than not.
Moore, 44, comes to the job of governor as a first-time elected official. His varied career has included a deployment to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, several years as an investment banker in London and New York, founding a for-profit education company in Baltimore that was later sold and its programs discontinued, leading the Robin Hood Foundation in New York, and writing a best-selling memoir.
Following a competitive Democratic primary with 10 candidates on the ballot — several with impressive resumes and more political experience — Moore coasted to victory in the general election over Republican nominee Dan Cox, a former state delegate who he bested by a 2-to-1 margin. At least two of Moore’s former rivals were present for the ceremony, Peter Franchot and Tom Perez.
Moore was introduced at the public ceremony by his friend — and one of the most famous people in America — TV host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who worked in Baltimore TV news early in her career.
Winfrey said when she first met Moore years ago: “He was wise beyond his years. He knew who he was and had a vision for who he intended to be and how he wanted to serve.”
Winfrey said she trusts in Moore’s leadership and Marylanders should, too.
Moore was also lauded by Col. Jaime Martinez, who served with Moore in the Army in Afghanistan. Martinez emphasized that Moore made a choice to serve the country when he could have chosen any other path and found success.
“From Afghanistan to Annapolis, Wes Moore has always put serving others before himself to set the example,” Martinez said. “He has always delivered and starting today, he will deliver as governor.”
Thousands of people gathered in Annapolis to participate in the inaugural festivities and perhaps get a glimpse of the new governor.
Former Baltimore City Police detective Deborah Ramsey arrived at 8:30 am. She sat in the front row of the general admission section in a sky blue overcoat adorned with a blue brooch, matching earrings and white winter gloves.
”I wish I could go to the shores of Annapolis and just wake up all those enslaved people who thought this was the end of their world and end of them as being a human being for them to see on this day, Jan. 18th, 2023, a Black man who raised his hand to be the governor of this state,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey knows she could have stayed home and watched the events on TV.
”I’m not here because it’s convenient,” she said. “I’m here because of all those who went before me and aren’t here. So I would like for them to live vicariously through me. I’m here for them.”
Jennifer Egan, 59, drove in from Dundalk with her daughter Kaytlin Nebel, 24.
Egan said if she could say anything to Moore, she would say, “Good luck and to help all your people … Democrats, Republicans, independents.”
Egan said she hopes Moore tends to the needs of disabled Marylanders. Egan’s daughter, who has special needs, requires more in financial assistance from the state than what she currently gets, she said.
Nebel, who wears supportive ankle braces and uses poles to walk, said she, too, would wish the new governor good luck. While she didn’t have any direct advice for Moore, she hoped he would “be helpful with special needs people to get them around faster.”
Robin Gray of Baltimore said she’s looking forward to the change she anticipates Moore will bring to the state and wished Moore and his family “the best.”
”I think that he is going to be an outstanding governor,” Gray said. ”I just want God to bless him with all, everything that he needs, all the tools that he needs.”
Dominic Catalfamo of Middle River was one of the first in the crowd. He said he wanted to “witness a part of history.”
While he said outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan did “a good job,” he hopes Moore “will take the state in a new direction, particularly about Baltimore City crime.”
The State House was festooned with banners bearing the names of Moore and the new lieutenant governor, Aruna Miller. Fences around the governor’s mansion and Lawyers Mall were wrapped in blue Moore-Miller signage, partially to screen off an unsightly office building construction site near the State House.
The four living former governors were on stage behind Moore and Miller: Republican Hogan, Democrat Martin O’Malley, Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Democrat Parris Glendening. Also onstage was Chelsea Clinton, a writer and advocate who is the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The crowd reacted warmly — and a few people shed tears — when Moore singled out two special people on stage: his mother, Joy, and Miller’s mother, Hema, both immigrants.
“They immigrated to America with hope in their hearts, not just for themselves, but for future generations,” Moore said. “Today, they are sitting here at the inauguration of their children as the governor and lieutenant governor of the state that helped welcome them to this country.”
Crews spent the last two days installing signs and placing row after row of rented, white folding chairs down Lawyers Mall and down the block of a closed-off street, using tape measures to place the rows just the right distance apart.
On Tuesday, Moore and Miller walked through the State House complex to prepare for the ceremony. Moore and his wife, Dawn Flythe Moore, were photographed at the top of the newly restored State House dome.
On Wednesday, Moore began his day with a pilgrimage to Annapolis City Dock, which was once an active area for selling and trading enslaved people — a powerful moment for the first person other than a white man to serve as Maryland governor.
As Moore acknowledged the state’s history with slavery, the official transition of power began to unfold following Maryland Constitutional requirements and long-held customs in the state capital. Members of the Maryland General Assembly bore witness to the final certification of the votes that declared Moore the winner of the election.
At noon, Moore and Miller were sworn into office during a brief, invitation-only ceremony in the Senate chambers. Moore took his oath on a Bible that once belonged to Maryland abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Miller took hers on the Bhagavad Gita, a text central to Hinduism. The oath of office was administered by Supreme Court of Maryland Chief Justice Matthew Fader. Moore pumped his fist in the air after the oath and his son James jumped up to wrap the new governor in a hug.
As the crowd outside watched the official oath of office on large video screens, they roared in approval before it was even complete.
Moore, Miller and their families emerged from the State House at about 12:40 p.m. for the public proceedings, a ceremony involving a reenactment of the oaths of office, musical performances and Moore’s first address as governor.
Moore opened his inaugural address with a nod to history, from the enslaved people who were forced to endure treacherous passage to Maryland to the first Black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“As I stand here today, looking out over Lawyers Mall, at the memorial to Justice Thurgood Marshall, it’s impossible not to think about our history,” Moore said in prepared remarks. “We are blocks away from the Annapolis docks, where so many enslaved people arrived in this country against their will. And we are standing in front of a capitol building built by their hands.”
“We have made uneven and unimaginable progress since then,” Moore continued. “History created by generations or people whose own history was lost, stolen or never recorded.”
He returned to the theme in the conclusion of his remarks.
“This is a moment people have dreamed of for generations,” the new governor said. “Those whose shoulders we stand on would ask us to view today not as a celebration, but as an opportunity. An opportunity to lead with love. To create with compassion. To fight fearlessly for our future.”
Constance Kinder, a 52-year-old Montgomery County school teacher, said she found the new governor’s speech inspiring.
“I believe exactly what he was saying, everyone should have an opportunity,” she said. “It shouldn’t be the haves and the have-nots.”
Moore concluded his speech: “Maryland: Our time is now. Our time is now to build a state that those who came before us fought for, and it’s a state that leaves no one behind. That is not a slogan; it is the fulfillment of a hope.
“It’s our time, Maryland. Let’s lead, and let’s do it together.”