Glendening sets the tone

January 19, 1995

Don't look to Parris Glendening for soaring rhetoric or a profusion of "do it now" ideas. At least not in his inaugural address as Maryland's 59th governor. His first speech as chief executive was traditional in setting out a broad, philosophical vision; innovative in its use of song and family ties to showcase his inner feelings; pragmatic in its approach and inclusive in its embrace.

Yesterday's speech marked the first glimpse many Marylanders have had of the true Parris Glendening. He remained a bit of a mystery even during the long campaign for governor last year. What they saw was a polished, though hardly riveting, speaker; a man passionately devoted to his wife and teen-age son; a public servant who concedes that government can't achieve much without the help of individual Marylanders; a politician who is striving to develop a "one Maryland" theme for his administration.

In part his message was Kennedyesque, which was only natural given the inclusion of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on his ticket. John Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." The Glendening version: "I cannot make these changes alone. Your government cannot make these changes alone. These changes will come from ALL of us, working together. These changes will come when we stop saying we have a problem and then simply asking 'what can government do about it?' "

The message was one of inclusion, one of expressing problems in statewide terms. Mr. Glendening is committed to improving education in Maryland and in bringing better-paying jobs to this state. But he repeatedly talked of the need for broad-scale support to make these things happen.

Education? It won't improve without help from "teachers, parents, business people, entire communities."

Economic development? Not without a recognition of business' role in creating wealth -- and opportunities. It will take labor-management cooperation to give Maryland a pro-business climate.

Safe streets? Only "if we tackle the problem as a community, bound together by common concerns for neighbors and neighborhoods."

Smaller bureaucracy? Only if state workers help in meeting "the challenges of re-engineering government."

Mr. Glendening talked of the limits of government and the need to include a range of interests in policy decisions. He's right: he cannot do it alone. But as governor he can set the tone and create a climate and spirit that galvanizes public support. That is the challenge facing the new governor as he begins his first full day in office.

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