During his victory night celebration, John Bel Edwards said something quite profound, instructive and potentially defining for his administration:
“I did not start the breeze of hope, but I did catch it. And so did you. That’s why we are here tonight, because we caught that breeze. The people of Louisiana have chosen to believe that we can be better. And that by doing better, we will be better. And, I commit to you, we will be better as a result of tonight.”
As a native of Rapides Parish, a graduate of LSU, a reporter and editor for Louisiana newspapers and press secretary for Gov. Buddy Roemer, I know Louisiana about as well as anyone can. And, I have felt that breeze of hope before, too often just a whisper, but sometimes a refreshing wind of change.
After recent gubernatorial leadership where critical issues seemed hopelessly tailored to the building of national political credentials, it is refreshing to hear the governor-elect publicly invoke hope, although everyone knows hope is not a strategy. Louisiana now needs a strong strategy to address the substantial, but not insurmountable, problems Edwards inherits from his predecessor.
Edwards has an opportunity, at this historic moment, to set a new leadership course for Louisiana that moves decisively toward a better state for the common good.
What is best for the people needs to be built into the equation from economy and jobs, to education to health care. This election has to be less about party and more about a coming together of leaders from across the state’s diverse regions to achieve new momentum.
Louisiana is a unique and deeply felt personal experience known truly only to those with deep roots in its rich soil, and even then its attraction is not always fully understood, even by us. The music, the food, the football, the sport of politics, laissez les bon temps rouler and more, all play a part, but none are the one thing that defines our collective spirit and real spiritual attachment to our homeland.
We feel the breeze of hope even as we endure, as Faulkner might say, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, as Shakespeare might say. The question for Gov.-elect Edwards and the team he is assembling is what is Louisiana to be or not to be?
The people have created the breeze of hope, as they always do, and are counting on Edwards, the Legislature and all of our civic and business leaders to grow it into a prevailing wind.