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Archive for Saturday, January 11, 2003

Sebelius inaugural events kick off

January 11, 2003

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— Gary Sebelius stood quietly, far behind the reception line where his wife, Gov.-elect Kathleen Sebelius, greeted some of the nearly 200 people who came to her inaugural reception at a Wichita school.

It was the perfect opportunity for George Dean, who served 22 years in the state Legislature, to warmly greet his old friend -- gleefully calling him the "first gentleman."

Gary Sebelius chuckled. "I think 'first dude' might be easier to handle."

Their exchange exemplified the down-home atmosphere of the preinaugural events the governor-elect is attending throughout the state this weekend, all taking place in the six cities where she announced her candidacy in February of last year.

In Wichita, the Wichita Heights High School Madrigal Singers sang "Home on the Range." In Hays, the Hays High School jazz band played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

On Friday, Sebelius and Lt. Gov.-elect John Moore visited with 400 people at Garden City Community College and about 350 people at Fort Hays State College before coming to a reception at Northwest High School in Wichita.

Other inaugural events this weekend are scheduled for a teen center in Salina, at Pittsburg State University, and at a Kansas City, Kan., community college. Sebelius told supporters in Wichita the inaugural stops at schools across the state were not accidental.

"It is in large part because one of the main efforts in this campaign and one of the main themes that we have been sounding across the state was how critical excellent public education is to the economic future of Kansas -- not only to the prosperity of our children, but it is key to our economic recovery," Sebelius said.

Winston Brooks, superintendent of Wichita Public Schools, said it was fitting the celebration took place in a school.

"Your campaign ... was grounded in supporting quality schools for all Kansas students -- we really appreciate that and we look forward to working with you in the years ahead," Brooks said.

The governor-elect said the state was about to celebrate a transfer of power that is almost taken for granted in America. On Monday, a new administration will be seated, a new legislature will come to Topeka and new supreme court justices will be sworn in.

"I don't want to miss the opportunity just to have us reflect, as this goes on, the wonders of living in a democracy ... where people do participate and have a voice and have an opportunity to make leadership choices free of oppression -- although sometimes I must say the press seems a bit oppressive," Sebelius said.

The remark, which elicited a burst of laughter, was a reference to the lawsuit filed by Kansas news organizations against Sebelius in an unsuccessful effort to open meetings of task forces she appointed to examine state government.

Sebelius came to Kansas 28 years ago as a new bride at the urging of her husband. As he stood and watched his wife move into her new role, Gary Sebelius said both had grown up in political families and watched their own parents.

But, he said, "I've never been married to a governor before."

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