Janet Mills gets an "A" for Inauguration

It was fitting that the air was icy and crisp and that the stars shined brightly last night for Janet Mills’ inauguration ceremony. The mood was optimistic and the tone one of imagination.

Happy little mobs of chattering colorful people slipped and slid their way on sparkling frozen sidewalks to get to the event on a cold January night in Maine. Shrouded around them puffs of steam hovered like speech balloons in a comic strip and the message from the diverse crowd pouring into the stadium was uniform: We celebrate each other and this momentous occasion.

Crossing over from the frosty outside darkness to the warmth and brightness of the arena inside the Augusta Civic Center was easy and a pleasant surprise. In a world where getting inside is often so hard — where access to power, pomp and circumstance is so rare — the easy entry to the inauguration of Maine’s 75th governor was a gift.

Doors were open and the lights were on and all were welcome. Smiling people with scanners greeted guests like gracious hosts of a big family gathering. Old friends and rivals hugged and slapped backs. It was a mix of excitement and comfort — a cross between rock concert and church supper.

The lack of armed guards, check points and x-ray machines bolstered feelings of safety and security. I was happy not to have my person or belongings subject to search.

Children handed out lovely programs printed on thick ivory paper that were tastefully designed with blue and black ink. The acoustics were good and the optics soothing. Men of color and Native American and Jewish women led prayers. Two kids belted out Girl on Fire by Alicia Keyes and brought the crowd to its feet and then fiddlers fiddled madly with joy causing feet to stomp. A string quartet added a pinch of aching profoundness.

Nobody was scared.

All the colors and voices of communities ready for change was a delight to behold and a good lead in to Governor Mills’ pronouncement of Maine’s new motto and the winning theme of the evening.

Welcome home.

These words Mills said in her blessedly short and eloquent speech, and “Welcome Home” is slated to be the new sign drivers will see on Route 95 north coming in to Maine from New Hampshire.

Strong and steadfast, Janet Mills is Maine’s new governor and Yankee matriarch and her opening statement was one of tough love for the land and all its people.

Come in from the cold. Supper is on the stove and there are clean sheets and linens on the beds. Today we will nourish our weary selves with art and music and poetry. Tonight we will rest our tired minds and be at peace with one another.

Tomorrow there is great work to be done.