Drawing on Missouri's bloody history during the Civil War, Gov. Jay Nixon used his second inaugural address Monday to call for Republicans and Democrats to put aside partisan differences and work for the common good.
"The people of Missouri deserve and expect no less," Nixon said. "And that is how I intend to lead."
The Democratic governor has faced a Republican-dominated legislature in each of his first four years in office. But after cruising to a second term in November -- the first to do so in Missouri since Mel Carnahan in 1996 --he meets a new challenge, as voters gave the GOP veto-proof super majorities in both the House and Senate.
Nixon noted that a similar dynamic existed when he was first elected as a state senator from DeSoto back in 1986 when he was only 30 years old.
"Then, as now, Republicans and Democrats were deeply committed to their beliefs," Nixon said. "Then, as now, we had a divided government, with a governor of one party and the other party holding a majority in the legislature."
Disagreement and debate were "daily fare," Nixon said.
"But it was possible to disagree while continuing to advance the public good," he said. "Cooperation wasn't a sign of weakness, but rather a prerequisite for progress."
And progress, "is not partisan."
While many believe Missouri politics has never been more partisan, Nixon said history shows that's simply not true. Missouri was bitterly divided during the Civil War, he said, including a time when there were "two state governments, two state capitals and two governors."
He noted the infamous massacre in Centralia when confederate guerrillas killed more than 100 Union soldiers and "hacked them to ribbons." He added that the suffering, retaliation and political struggles dragged on for years after the war's end, "crippling our economy, testing our resolve."
"That was hard politics," he said. "But from that time forward, the arc Missouri history shows us that even the deepest divisions can be healed."
He ticked through a list of accomplishments from his first term, noting efforts to boost Missouri's auto industry to helping rebuild after a series of natural disasters.
"History has left its indelible mark on our landscape," Nixon said. "But history is not destiny. We do not inherit the future. We must build the future."
The future must mean that all children get an education that prepares them to compete for the best jobs in a global economy, he said. Business and art must flourish together, and the bound of Missouri's farms, "will feed, clothe and power the planet," he said.
Democracy must be a "chorus of many voices," Nixon said, "and our democracy and our state are stronger for it."
"Our time here is fleeting, but the work we do will endure," Nixon said. "Together we can and we will build a bright future for the great state of Missouri in the greatest nation on earth."