By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
January 14, 2021
Spirited and harmonious — the words describe not only the 3 Heath Brothers’ rendition of the National Anthem performed in the Senate — but also the overall tone of Opening Day speeches delivered Wednesday in the N.C. General Assembly.
Like the Thomasville-based trio, lawmakers seemed to be reading off the same sheet of music.
“We are a guiding light for the principles of freedom and free enterprise,” said Speaker of the House, Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland). “North Carolina is ready to lead the way forward for our fellow Americans who are seeking hope, for those in need of care, for students, and for struggling businesses.”
Beginning his fourth term as Speaker, Moore called on representatives to “put politics aside and create a state government that attracts success.”
He commended lawmakers for already helping the state turn a corner toward stronger growth.
“Together we built a more resilient economy. We confronted the state’s financial problems head-on,” he said. “With a balanced budget and rainy-day fund, we are prepared to deliver relief for critical needs.”
Similarly, Sen. President Pro-Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), starting his sixth term at the helm, touted the state’s success in dealing with the pandemic and the recession it caused. He also denounced last week’s rioting at the U.S. Capitol.
“We assemble today after a year punctuated by violence, culminating last week in the most symbolic and troubling episode of all: A mob storming the seat of our national government,” Berger said. “Our Constitution prescribes how to advance change through the three branches of government. Mob violence is not one of them.”
Berger challenged his peers to “find, develop and expand common ground,” while at the same time reminding them that “disagreement is healthy and makes for better ultimate outcomes.”
House speaker pro tempore, Rep. Sarah Stevens (R-Surry) gave lawmakers practical tips on how to agree to disagree.
“I will share with you the advice I gave my children as they were growing up: it doesn’t cost anything to be nice, to be kind, to listen to others,” she said, adding, “We are so much more alike than we are different.”
Back in the Senate chamber, Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell), deputy president pro-tempore, put the theme into a Biblical context, using Ephesians 6:12 to remind lawmakers that their battle is not against “flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
“Too often as elected officials we are drawn to conflicts with each other. We are led to believe that the enemy sits on a different row, in a different chamber, or even in a different branch of government,” Hise said. “But we often miss the opportunity to wrestle against the true enemies that afflict so many.”
Holding his grandmother’s faded Bible on which he took his oath of office, Hise said she fought the right battles, committing everything to improving the lives of her children and grandchildren as well as those she served for 40 years working in a school lunchroom.
“The truth is, all of us come from similar struggles, where people have fought those battles for us and we are all truly blessed to be here today,” he said. “I hope at the end of this biennium that we didn’t fight against each other and against parties, but that we fought against the things that hold people back all across this state.”
Republican Mark Robinson, the state’s first African-American lieutenant governor, wrapped up the opening session of the Senate with a focus on what is still right in America.
“I firmly believe that this is still the land of opportunity, equal opportunity, and freedom and justice. … And anyone who doesn’t, I can sit them down and I have a story to tell them about Mrs. Robinson’s youngest son from Greensboro, North Carolina, who once upon a time sat out on a banister at a rat-infested house and dreamed of doing great things. And because his mother had overwhelming faith in God, and because he lived in the greatest and freest nation on earth, he’s now achieved great things,” Robinson said.
“Keep in mind, this country may have many problems, but it is still the greatest country on earth. And as lieutenant governor, I intend to fight every day to make sure this state, the greatest state in the greatest country on earth, stays that way.”
Having taken their oaths of office, settled on rules and announced committee leadership, among other organizational tasks, both the House and Senate adjourned with plans to return on Jan. 27 to begin work in earnest.