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Gov. Reeves Borrows From Obama Speech at Second Inauguration, Declaring ‘Mississippi Forever’

Gov. Tate Reeves walks with his family past MS state flags
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves delivered his second inaugural address on the steps of the Mississippi Capitol Building in Jackson, Miss., on Jan. 9, 2024. During the speech, he appealed to similar ideas of unity as then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama offered in his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

JACKSON, Miss.—Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves offered an optimistic tone as he delivered his second inaugural speech on the steps of the Mississippi Capitol Building Tuesday in Jackson, even echoing the hopeful rhetoric of former President Barack Obama.

“The fact is that everything we do, we do together,” Reeves said. “There is no Black Mississippi or white Mississippi. There is no red Mississippi or blue Mississippi. There is only one Mississippi—and it is Mississippi Forever.”

The governor’s language evoked the same message Obama delivered during his 2004 Democratic Convention keynote address when he was still a Democratic U.S. senator from Illinois. “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America,” Sen. Obama said before heaping criticism on “pundits” who “like to slice-and-dice our country into red states and blue states.” That speech is often credited with fueling his rise and eventual 2008 election as president.

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael K. Randolph swore Reeves in for his second term as governor on Tuesday. Though the Florence, Miss., native did not mention Obama, he emphasized similar themes of unity and purpose as those the future Democratic president offered nearly 20 years ago.

“I really do believe that this is Mississippi’s time. We have an opportunity ahead of us that we must seize. But it will require that we be bold and ambitious,” Reeves told those gathered.

But the governor has often struck deeply partisan tones during his time in office and during campaigns, falsely accusing Mississippi’s only Black or Democratic congressman of supporting Hamas and sending out divisive mailers that misstated 2023 opponent Brandon Presley’s views on transgender rights. Despite signing the bill into law that retired Mississippi’s old Confederate-themed state flag in 2020, Reeves declared April as “Confederate Heritage Month” during each of his first four years as governor while denying that systemic racism exists.

During Tuesday’s speech, the governor looked back to what he considered the successes of his first term. He outlined investments in Mississippi’s workforce, a pay raise for teachers and a $524-million tax cut as some of his accomplishments.

“And today, I am proud to tell you, we’re just getting started,” he said.

Reeves said the children of Mississippi are the state’s “most valuable export” and that one of his goals for his second term is to ensure people are not only proud to say they are from Mississippi but decide to stay—not move away.

“Mississippi minds dominate some of the top positions in government, business and entertainment across the country. They carry with them the pride and grit that is engrained in every Mississippian. They made other places better, and we missed out on all they could have done here at home.”

Hoseman speaks with Reeves and his wife Elee
Republican Mississippi Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann speaks with Gov. Tate Reeves and his wife Elee Reeves after the governor’s second inauguration ceremony on Jan. 9, 2024. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

In 2018 when he was lieutenant governor and president of the Mississippi Senate, Reeves oversaw the passage of a 15-week abortion ban that the Arizona-based right-wing Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom wrote. During his time as governor, a lawsuit over that ban made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in the overturning of Roe v. Wade and federal abortion rights. That June 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization allowed dozens of Republican-led states, including Mississippi, to enact near-total bans. Mississippi’s only abortion clinic closed its doors in July 2022.

During his speech, Reeves promised to go further with what he calls “pro-life” policies, but did not offer specifics.

“Let’s protect mothers and babies by further expanding the pro-life agenda—by making Mississippi the best place in America to have and raise a child,” said the governor of the deadliest state for fetuses and infants alike. Mississippi also boasts one of the nation’s highest maternal mortality rates.

Reeves ended his speech on Tuesday with a call to action for his political peers to be unified in the goal of making Mississippi better.

“We’ve been entrusted by our friends, peers, and neighbors to make decisions that will impact many lives, not just today, but for many years to come. Let us take up this work with joy and determination. Let us come together and heal our differences. Let us all throw ourselves at the great mission. Let us be united by our mission to make Mississippi the home for all its sons and daughters—forever,” he said.

You can read a full transcript of Gov. Tate Reeve’s 2024 inauguration speech here.

Ashton Pittman contributed to this report.

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