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WATCH: Gov. Janet Mills delivers message of hope in 2nd inauguration speech

Janet Mills
Robert F. Bukaty
Gov. Janet Mills speaks at her inauguration ceremony, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, at the Civic Center in Augusta, Maine.

Gov. Janet Mills sketched out a hopeful future for Maine, despite its numerous challenges, during a Wednesday ceremony kicking off her second term in the Blaine House.

Speaking to several thousand spectators at the Augusta Civic Center, Mills pointed to other female leaders on stage with her as she talked about the progress Maine has made in the century since the first woman served in the Legislature.

She also recapped some of her administration's accomplishments, such as fully funding K-12 schools and expanding access to both health care and broadband internet. Mills pointed to the recent investments in land conservation, and she talked about improving the state’s relationship with tribal nations and pointed to the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Four years ago, I committed my new administration to taking us into the future, to welcoming new people to our state and welcoming back those who have left,” Mills said. “So, I am pleased to report that after the decadeslong exodus of young people from our state, Maine now boasts the seventh highest in-migration rate in the country. We are welcoming new people every day.”

During a speech peppered with references to Maine's history and natural resources, Mills also pledged to continue responding to climate change. She discussed the need to improve workforce training and to address the lack of affordable housing statewide.

The Democrat said Mainers also want state government to step up its response to Maine’s opioid addiction crisis that has claimed record numbers of lives in recent years. And Mills sprinkled the word “hope” throughout her roughly 33-minute inaugural speech.

“Hope is not an easy thing. It’s not mere wishful thinking. It’s not just trying to do what we did yesterday in the same old, same old ways. Hope is disruptive. It is a four-letter word, after all. It challenges and changes the way we do things. It calls on us to advance and adapt, while preserving who we are as a people and all the values we hold dear.”

Gubernatorial inaugurations in Maine are ceremonial affairs that follow procedures laid out in the state constitution. But it is also a chance for governors-elect to lay out their aspirational goals while highlighting some of the state’s cultural and artistic heritage.

For the second time, Mills filled her inauguration with musical performances from the Sockalexis Family Singers of the Penobscot Nation, the folk singer Dave Mallett and the Pihcintu Multi National Girls Choir. Maine Poet Laureate Julia Bouwsma and Bethel-based poet Richard Blanco, who delivered the inaugural poem during President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, also read pieces during the ceremony.

Mills became Maine’s first woman governor when she was sworn in four years ago. The 75-year-old defeated former Republican Gov. Paul LePage by more than 13 percentage points in November during an election that saw Democrats retain control of both the Blaine House and the Legislature.

Mills’ inaugural celebration will take place at the Augusta Civic Center on Thursday evening.