by Kevin Allman
If there was one theme running through Mitch Landrieu's inauguration this morning on the steps of Gallier Hall, it was inclusion. The invocation, the reflection and the benediction were presented, respectively, by an archbishop (Gregory Aymond), a rabbi (Edward Cohn) and a minister (the Rev. Charles Southall). And Landrieu himself began his remarks with a prayer ("Thank you, Lord, for waking us up this morning....")
At other times during his speech, he could have been leading an A.M.E. church service, down to the attendees fanning themselves in the audience. "Our story is not about survival, but redemption," he said of post-Katrina New Orleans, calling it "this gorgeous but challenged place we call home." His recitation of New Orleans neighborhoods ("from Uptown to Gert Town," etc.) had some in the crowd swaying (and it wasn't from the oppressive humidity). Perhaps the moment that got the biggest reaction was his one-New-Orleans-themed observation: "Your neighbor looks just like you ... and nothing like you at all." He concluded with a call to arms: "One step! One team! One fight! One voice! One city!"
"One Team ... One Fight ... One Voice ... One City" is the slogan for the administration, and again, inclusion was the theme of the morning -- as was family: Landrieu descended the steps at Gallier Hall with his wife Cheryl and their five children; his sister, Sen. Mary Landrieu, was seated near the podium; and Landrieu's parents, former mayor Moon Landrieu and his wife Verna, were on hand.
Also there: Gov. Bobby Jindal; former Gov. Kathleen Blanco; all the previous living mayors of New Orleans; the new mayor's sister, Sen. Mary Landrieu; and Louisiana Reps. Charlie Melancon, Rodney Alexander and Anh "Joseph" Cao. (If Sen. David Vitter was there, I didn't spot him.) The city council took up the front row -- they were sworn in before Landrieu -- and sprinkled through the crowd were the municipal officials who were also taking their oaths (Orleans Parish sheriff Marlin Gusman; clerk of Civil District Court Dale Atkins; clerk of Criminal District Court Arthur Morrell; and coroner Frank Minyard).
As lieutenant governor, Landrieu led the state's cultural tourism efforts (and, as a boy, he performed in local theater), so the arts were well-represented. Philip Manuel and Shades of Praise got the crowd going before the service; Irma Thomas sang the National Anthem; Terence Blanchard performed "Amazing Grace"; and "God Bless America" was the province of Deacon John and the U.S. Marine Forces Reserve Band. Rebirth Brass Band and a group of Mardi Gras Indians led the recessional.
Landrieu then had to go to City Hall to address the new city council (and have a phone call with President Barack Obama regarding the BP oilpocalypse in the Gulf of Mexico), but he had a short press briefing before leaving, where he discussed his selection of a new police chief (the timeline is still "soon"), the steps he's coordinating with the state and federal governments to address the BP oilpocalypse, and how he intends to restore public confidence in the NOPD following the Danziger Bridge incident -- particularly among African-Americans.
Afterward, there was a street festival in Lafayette Square, and tonight brings a mayoral gala at Mardi Gras World -- but Landrieu is having a press conference early tomorrow morning, at which he's expected to introduce the top officials in his administration. (And, perhaps, name a police chief.)