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Ron DeSantis declares Florida 'where woke goes to die' in inauguration speech

By Sarah May
|
January 4, 2023

Amid growing speculation about his future political aspirations, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis was sworn into office as his state's chief executive for the second time on Tuesday, delivering an inauguration speech in which he declared Florida the place “where woke goes to die,” as Politico reports.

DeSantis' address took place at the historic Capitol building in Tallahassee and was characterized as having a “grander” feel than typical state-level inaugurations, a distinction some suggest points to the governor having ambitions on the national stage sooner rather than later.

“Where woke goes to die”

In a speech lasting roughly 20 minutes, DeSantis took the opportunity to show case many of what he believes to be his administration's signature accomplishments and vowed to continue on the policy path charted during his first term.

A particular point of pride in the governor's remarks was the manner in which, under his leadership, Florida prioritized family-first initiatives and fostered greater parental rights in the education of their children, and he promised to continue that fight.

“We must ensure school systems are responsive to parents and to students, not partisan interest groups, and we must ensure that our institutions of higher learning are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideology,” DeSantis said.

In what appeared to be a reference to the state's Parental Rights in Education law, passed earlier this year, which prevents the teaching of gender ideology and sexual orientation in K-3 classrooms, DeSantis added, “we will defend our children against those who seek to rob them of their innocence.”

Further promising to continue combating what he called a “bizarre, but prevalent, ideology that...rejects merit and achievement, and...advocates identity essentialism,” DeSantis proudly declared, “Florida is where woke goes to die!”

“Freedom lives here”

DeSantis dedicated another significant portion of his remarks to his state's successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic, stating, “[o]ver the past few years, as so many states in our country grinded their citizens down, we in Florida lifted our people up.”

“When other states consigned their people's freedom to the dustbin” in response to top-down public health edicts, DeSantis said, “Florida stood strongly as freedom's linchpin.”

The governor decried the conduct of other states that he says “imposed medical authoritarianism in the guise of pandemic mandates and restrictions that lack a scientific basis” and assured Floridians, “[w]e will not allow reality, facts, and truth to become optional.”

Leading the nation

Underscoring the tangible results the DeSantis agenda has yielded since he took office, the governor boasted that his state now leads the nation in net in-migration, ranks #1 in tourism and new business formations, and is the fastest growing state in the union.

Further noting that Florida now enjoys a record budget surplus, DeSantis asserted the need for even greater tax relief for families struggling with inflation he blamed on a federal “spending binge that has left our nation weaker and our citizens poorer.”

DeSantis went on to declare Florida a “law-and-order state” in which “soft-on-crime policies” will never be tolerated on his watch, and he also promised to continue his administration's oversight of what he called “a golden era for conservation of our treasured natural resources” in order to “leave Florida to God better than we found it.”

Reactions pour in

Responses to DeSantis' speech tended to fall along predictable partisan lines, according to Florida Politics, with Democrat state Rep. Anna Eskamani saying, “The only line that got major applause was 'Florida is where woke goes to die' which is a line [he] used before. No actual issues that everyday families deal with like housing affordability were even mentioned, and the governor once more avoided talking about abortion and reproductive rights.”

“There are words that could have been used to inspire, and I didn't hear any of them,” said state Rep. Kelly Skidmore (D-Boca Raton).

Republican former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush spoke to Politico following the speech and declared DeSantis to be a “great alternative” to other 2024 presidential candidates such as former President Donald Trump, but added, “I'm not going to prejudge whether he's running or not.”

Speculation swirls

DeSantis' rousing inauguration speech did little to dampen growing speculation about his possible plans for 2024, and Fox News recently reported that the governor met with a group of top donors to discuss not just his landslide November re-election win, but also what other opportunities could lie ahead in the near future.

Further fueling expectations of a impending presidential bid is the fact that DeSantis is poised to release in February a book detailing his career in public service thus far, entitled, The Courage to Be Free: Florida's Blueprint for America's Revival, in what is arguably a strong signal of a desire on the governor's part to bolster his presence on the national stage just as the 2024 field begins to take shape.