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Governor Josh Shapiro is Pennsylvania's Governor
Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro speaks at his inauguration ceremony in Harrisburg on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. Photo: Alan Nunez/Al DÍA News

Shapiro talks democracy and progress as he's sworn in as PA's 48th Governor

Following the ceremony, Governor Shapiro, newly sworn in, held an inaugural celebration in Lititz.

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AL DÍA Political Fellows Alan Nuñez and Carlos Nogueras contributed to this report

No longer-elect, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro received his oath of office on Tuesday, Jan. 17, on a stage overlooking the southern quarters of the State Capitol Building in Harrisburg, marking a close to the election season and the beginning of a new Democratic administration. 

Today’s oath, administered by Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court Debra Todd, ushers in a new era for Shapiro, who, in his inaugural remarks, set the tone for his administration. He began by recognizing outgoing Tom Wolf, who sat directly behind the podium from which Shapiro spoke. 

“[Governor Tom Wolf’s] presence here today formally celebrates the peaceful transfer of power. It also reminds us that while I am now entrusted with this awesome responsibility, it is just for a moment in the long history of our company,” Shapiro said as part of his opening remarks. 

Shapiro, a Jewish man, received his oath of office on three Bibles, all of which hold varying levels of significance to his faith. The first is a personal, family bible that Shapiro previously used to receive his oath as State Representative, Commissioner, and Attorney General. 

A second bible was procured by the Philadelphia Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, in addition to a third bible, originally printed for World War II Jewish service members, which was carried by a soldier with connections to Shapiro's current synagogue, Beth Sholom in Elkins Park.

Pennsylvania stories 

Following a slate of thankful notes towards his family and members of his cabinet, Shapiro highlighted a series of stories from individuals he encountered on the campaign trail and whose experiences helped shape the larger topics of his address. 

He spoke of Danielle, a woman who sought an abortion procedure to save her life, as well as Jerry, the owner of a barbershop in Lancaster. Some of the subjects mentioned in Shapiro’s remarks accompanied him onstage. 

Shapiro was also joined on stage by Brittany Sisca and Stephanie Mack, the widows of two Pennsylvania State Troopers, Martin F. Mack III and Branden T. Sisca, who lost their lives in the line of duty on March 21, 2022. 

“The voices of those who put on a uniform, at home and abroad to keep us safe. They leave behind their service to all of us. Thank you for being with us today. We continue to honor and respect your husbands. May their memories be a blessing,” Shapiro said.

The two troopers were dispatched to a report of a pedestrian on I-95 south, located by the stadiums in South Philly. 

A perpetrator, Reyes Rivera Oliveras of Allentown, was being placed into their patrol vehicle when an intoxicated woman struck and killed all three men. 

“I want you to know that you, the good people of Pennsylvania, will always be my North Star,” Shapiro asserted. 

“I'm mindful of the fact that you share those stories with me because you believe that I can make a difference for you,” Shapiro said, while also recognizing that achieving democracy had always been a work in progress. 

“Our democracy is indeed now stronger because that historic coalition kicked us out and fought for it, voted for it. But our democracy is not as good. As your own Pennsylvania history shows: Our democracy is a constant work in progress,” he said.

Photo: Alan Nunez/ Al Dia News
Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks at his inauguration ceremony in Harrisburg, PA, Jan. 17. 

Shapiro talks Democracy

Continuing on that note, Shapiro spoke of his campaign for governor. 

Many aspects of the speech mirrored the friction on the campaign trail against State Senator Doug Mastriano, the losing Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Shapiro, having emerged triumphant, now has “the responsibility to stand up for what is right, to bring people together to get real things done for you.” 

“That is my covenant with you. That's our deal. You have spoken out loud and clear,” he said. 

He called on the voters — whether they’d cast a ballot for him — to “come together under the banner of this new administration, to write our next chapter,” and urged Democrats, Republicans and Independents to “resoundingly reject extremism” in PA. 

“You entrusted me with such a great responsibility, not just the honor to serve as your governor, but the responsibility to stand up for what is right, to bring people together to get real things done for you.” 

Tasked with safeguarding government institutions, Shapiro also reminded listeners of the fragile state of democracy and to not allow “extremists who penalize to drown out the truth.” 

“We show that our system works. Our elections are free and fair, safe and secure,” he continued.

Symbols of progress

Shapiro begins his four-year term alongside Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis, a former State Representative and the first Black man to serve there in the office’s history. 

Judge Kim Berkeley Clark, of the Fifth Judicial District, administered the oath of office to Davis, a seminal moment as Clark is the first African American to serve as President Judge in Allegheny County.

Hoping to help forge a pathway for Davis, Judge Clark reminded the lieutenant governor to exercise kindness throughout his term.

“This moment is a symbol of our progress,” Davis said, addressing the Senate floor, where he accepted his path of office before the governor’s inaugural ceremony.

“The American Dream is alive and well in Pennsylvania,” he added. 

What lies ahead

Shapiro, formerly the state’s Attorney General, inherits a divided government for at least the next two years. 

House Democrats initially secured a thin majority, but it promptly disappeared after a series of vacancies, handing Republicans the edge while special elections are held to fill the vacant seats. 

And amid the aftermath of the midterm elections, House Reps also scrambled to find a Speaker of the House, a role eventually given to Berks Rep. Mark Rozzi after a Republican unexpectedly threw his name in the hat. 

While the Pennsylvania Congress navigates the unprecedented, Shapiro must also deal with a shroud of doubt, after reporting from Spotlight PA revealed that Shapiro’s transition team — consisting of 300 or so members — is keeping funding information locked down. 

Nonetheless, Shapiro’s entrance also marks Pennsylvania’s first consecutive Democratic governors since 1966. 

Attendees of the inauguration included U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman, outgoing Gov. Tom Wolf, former Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, state Treasurer Stacy Garrity and Auditor General Tim DeFoor as well as six Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices.

“I accept the responsibility that you bestowed upon me to be the next link in this chain of progress with humility. And so, with my feet firmly rooted in we the people of Pennsylvania, with my heart open to others, and my eyes fixed ahead. I'm prepared now to do my part to move our Commonwealth,” Shapiro concluded.

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