HARRISBURG — Like any typical simcha, the inauguration of Josh Shapiro as Pennsylvania’s attorney general started a good 15 minutes late inside the packed amphitheater of the downtown Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts.
But if anyone was annoyed by the delay it didn’t last for long after hearing the star of the hour deliver an impassioned 20-minute address vowing to be the voice of all—not just some—of the people.
Then again, that’s always been the 43-year-old Shapiro’s mantra.
“Anyone who tries to roll back your rights will have to go through me,” Shapiro told the overflow crowd of dignitaries, friends and well-wishers, many of whom had hopped a courtesy bus from Plymouth Meeting for the occasion. “And, let me be clear, I won’t be afraid to stand up to anyone — from the president of the United States to a multinational corporation to someone on the street corner.
“The people I met when I campaigned all across our commonwealth had a great impact on me. They strengthened my candidacy and their experiences will help define our work.
“That approach didn’t end when the votes were tallied. I’ve continued listening to Pennsylvanians during my transition, hearing the complexities of the challenges they face, and giving everyone a seat at the table.”
In his office as well. Shapiro announced that in the wake of the Kathleen Kane scandal that forced her out of office last summer, everyone on his staff will be signing a code of conduct and report to a chief integrity officer. In addition, he’ll have a chief diversity officer on the payroll “to make sure our office looks like the Pennsylvanians we are sworn to protect.”
Hearing such words from a man he’s known and supported for years was music to Gov. Tom Wolf’s ears.
“The whole point about Josh is good government and integrity,” said Wolf, grabbing lunch for his staff at the local food court. “I’ve been a friend of his for a long time and been one of his admirers because of that trait.
“He is nothing else above all but about integrity and honesty, and that is something we really need so desperately in public service right now.
“People on both sides of an issue want to be able to trust that whoever is making the decisions is going to make it with integrity. He’s done that his whole life.”
It’s been a life filled with diverse connections and attitudes, which were reflected during the inauguration.
While Rabbi David Glanzberg-Krainin of Beth Sholom Congregation gave the invocation, he was just one of three clergymen who participated in the ceremony.
Rev. Marshall Mitchell of Salem Baptist Church in Jenkintown served as master of ceremonies, while Rev. Charles W. Quann of Bethlehem Baptist Church gave an impassioned closing benediction.
And throughout the hour-long event, various men and women who’ve crossed Shapiro’s path along the way got up to extol his virtues.
“He lives an upright life,” said Mary Ann Nord, a mother from Coopersburg, who got to know Shapiro through her work to stop gun violence following the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
“If you asked me to describe him in one word, it would be ‘upright,’ and goodness knows in today’s world we could use a dose of that.
“The theme of Josh’s campaign was to be the people’s attorney general. If you look at the people he invited to speak here today and the forums he’s selected, it’s clear he intends to follow through on that promise.
“Moms all over the state of Pennsylvania are counting on him. We look forward to four strong upright years under Josh Shapiro.”
After Shapiro’s children Sophia, Jonah, Max and Reuben stood to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, Shapiro received the oath of office from Justice David Wecht, who quoted Rudyard Kipling’s famed poem “If.”
After being sworn in, Shapiro discussed the cornerstone areas he’ll focus on during his term in office. Those include consumer protection against fraud, scams of seniors and the massive heroin and opioid problem haunting many in the state.
“Consumers will know that I’ll be protecting them from dangerous and counterfeit products, irresponsible businesses and unfair trade practices,” he said. “This enforcement is critical for consumers and businesses alike.
“I pledge today to enforce our state laws to create a level playing field, ensure the integrity of our system of commerce and protect consumers. We can balance these interests and protect all Pennsylvanians.”
He also pledged to make sure no one seizes upon the vulnerability of seniors.
“Anyone who targets a Pennsylvania senior or veteran online, by phone or the mail needs to know that we will be focused and determined to track you down and hold you accountable,” he vowed. “Scammers who fleece Pennsylvania seniors out of about $1 billion a year must not be allowed to rob families of their savings, seniors of their nest egg, veterans of the benefits they’ve earned defending our nation.
“We will make it clear to the scammers that Pennsylvania is not open for their business.”
Or to the business of having drugs running amok in the streets. “A clear and present threat we face is the thousands of lives we are losing each year to heroin and opioids,” he warned. “It is ravaging our communities from Allentown to Erie. In rural, suburban and urban Pennsylvania, no one is immune.
“The stories are tragic and all too common, and we need a comprehensive plan. We must understand the difference between a nonviolent drug addict who is suffering from a disease and needs treatment and the drug dealer who needs to be locked up.
“We will partner with all 67 DAs and area AGs (in Pa.) because dealers aren’t constrained by municipal or state boundaries and we shouldn’t be either. I’ve already spoken with Attorneys General in Michigan, Maryland, New York and West Virginia around ways we can collaborate.
“We will take this fight from the street corners to the board rooms and we will make a difference.”
Since he was a fifth grader in Jewish day school and heard about the plight of a Soviet Union Jews and launched into a letter writing campaign on their behalf, Josh Shapiro has been trying to make a difference. Now that he has the power, though, he still knows who and what matters most.
“As my family has surrounded me with love and support, my faith has helped guide and ground me,” he revealed. “Scripture teaches us that no one is required to complete the task but neither are we free to refrain from it.
“I’ve lived my life in the arena—not on the sidelines—trying each day to do my part of the task.
“Know that I am humbled by the confidence you’ve shown in me, motivated by your stories and prepared for the massive task before us. Know that your voices are heard, and that no Pennsylvanian will be forgotten.
“The task before us may be large, but it is not insurmountable. It is now my time to do my part in service to you. I will not refrain from the task.
“I will not let you down.”
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