In a moment he called "highly improbable," Greg Abbott officially became the 48th governor of Texas in a ceremony on the south steps of the Texas Capitol on Tuesday. His wife, Cecilia Abbott, became the first Latina first lady of Texas.
Roughly 30 years ago, when he was 26, an oak tree fell on Abbott as he was jogging by, paralyzing him from the waist down. He is the first governor in the state's history to use a wheelchair.
"I am living proof that we live in a state where a young man's life can literally be broken in half and yet he can still rise up and be governor of this great state," Abbott said in his speech after taking the oath of office.
He was sworn in by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht as cannon fire signaled Abbott's ascent to power.
From his new position, Abbott, a Republican, pledged to build more roads, secure the border, and to "speed up our needed water projects." He also said that he will "ensure that we keep Texas number one in the nation for job creation," which he said will require improving the state's education system.
As the state's longest-serving attorney general, Abbott developed a reputation for taking on the federal government, against which he filed more than 30 lawsuits. He indicated that he does not intend to alter his approach to dealing with Washington, D.C.
"We Texans aren't spoiling for a fight, but we won't shrink from one if the cause is right," he said.
Not all observers were excited by the inauguration day festivities. Matt Angle, a Democratic consultant who was a top adviser to Wendy Davis, who unsuccessfully challenged Abbott during the recent election, issued a statement, saying, "Greg Abbott enters office with a record of attacking and dividing Texans while looking out for himself and his donors. We’ll find out over the next several weeks whether Governor Abbott’s inclusive words today are matched with inclusive and constructive actions. He hasn't yet earned any benefit of doubt."
Just before Abbott's swearing in, which came at the end of a ceremony that also featured an F-16 flyover and performances by the University of Texas at Austin band and the Marian Choristers from San Antonio's Providence Catholic School, newly elected Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick took the oath of office.
Patrick's oath was administered by his son, Ryan Patrick, a state district judge in Houston.
In his speech, Patrick, who is the state's 42nd lieutenant governor, declared — and repeatedly asked the assembled crowd to shout, as well — "It's a new day in Texas."
As for what that entails, Patrick harkened back to his campaign promises to secure the border, lower property and business taxes, reform education, build the state's infrastructure, and to "protect life, family, and the second amendment." Many of these, he said, would be accomplished in the current legislative session.
"That is what I pledged to do as a candidate and what I will do as lieutenant governor," Patrick said. "My goal is to be the best lieutenant governor in the history of this state."
As he emphasized his desire to pass school choice legislation, Patrick invoked Martin Luther King, Jr. and his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
"I don't think he could have dreamed that 52 years later, that many of our inner city schools would still be failing out children," Patrick said.
The new lieutenant governor also emphasized his desire to end the gas tax, keep the Common Core curriculum out of the state's schools, and to fund border security at the highest levels in the state's history.
Many events were scheduled for the rest of the day following the ceremony, including a barbecue lunch, a parade on Congress Avenue, and a black tie ball featuring country music stars Pat Green and Lady Antebellum.
--by Reeve Hamilton with The Texas Tribune