Jared Polis was sworn in Tuesday as Colorado's 43rd governor, expressing optimism about the state's future in his inaugural address.
The Democrat took the oath of office alongside his partner, Marlon Reis, the state's new first gentleman, under sunny skies on the West Steps of the State Capitol in Denver.
The 43-year-old former Boulder congressman and tech entrepreneur now leads a state government dominated by his fellow Democrats, who hold all statewide government offices and control both chambers of the Legislature.
Polis made history as the first gay man to be elected governor of any state, and is Colorado's first Jewish chief executive. He defeated Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton in November after besting three other Democrats in the June primary.
Polis took the oath of office in front of 1,200 assembled dignitaries as another thousand spectators watched the proceedings nearby on a giant TV screen and untold thousands viewed the inauguration on streaming devices.
Polis was sworn in by Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan B. Coats, who also administered oaths of office to Polis' lieutenant governor, former state Rep. Dianne Primavera, and to Attorney General Phil Weiser, Secretary of State Jena Griswold and State Treasurer Dave Young, all Democrats starting their first terms in office.
As soon as the Colorado National Guard howitzer finished firing a 21-gun salute, Polis held up a mobile phone to take a selfie over his shoulder and then said he would tweet it out before beginning his inaugural address.
Invoking the theme of his inauguration, Polis said there will "always be seats at the table for those with constructive input" and vowed to harness creative approaches to "move forward, 'Colorado for All'."
"Right now, our nation is experiencing a period of growing divisiveness and rising tribalism," Polis said. "But we here in Colorado have chosen a different path. Here, we have come so far, climbed so high, and done so much not just to say but to show that we reject that brand of politics." He credited his predecessors from both parties with setting a standard for problem-solving, Colorado-style.
Polis said he plans to detail his administration's proposals in the annual State of the State address scheduled for Thursday before a joint session of the General Assembly but wanted to address his broader approach at the swearing-in.
Recalling how he started an online flower-delivery company and launched a public charter school to serve non-English speakers, Polis said "the naysayers lit a fire that would lead me to success" and then expanded on the theme.
"I had the ideas, and when I hit stumbling blocks, I brought in the smartest and hardest-working people I could find, never taking no for an answer. And guess what? Together, we found a way," he said.
"I learned that if you have a bold idea and fight for it with conviction, creativity and optimism, then anything is possible. And, today, I believe there is nothing that Colorado needs to do that Coloradans can’t get done. There is nothing wrong with Colorado that what is right with Colorado can’t fix."
As the new governor's office approaches challenges, Polis said: "We will always value bold ideas and new approaches. We will never, ever be outworked. We will never be slowed by indecision or held back by fear. We will never be stunted by a lack of imagination. And we will pursue our goals always with joy, with optimism, and with endless faith in the people of Colorado."
Polis "is committed to putting politics aside to get hard work done,” said House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder, who emceed the ceremony alongside Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo.
After welcoming new lawmakers from both parties, Becker advised: "It’s on all of us to problem-solve in the days and weeks ahead," adding, "We will continue to govern responsibly, and we will continue to govern for all. We’re ready to get to work."
The officials and faith leaders sounded similar notes as they welcomed the new administration into existence.
"We came here on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now," said Rev. Dr. James D. Peters Jr. of Denver's New Hope Baptist Church, who delivered the invocation.
"We are connected to the very best of ourselves when we are connected to one another," outgoing Gov. John Hickenlooper said, recalling that Colorado's economy was in the dumps when he took office eight years ago but is now ranked best in the country.
There is an urgency to face the problems of the day, Hickenlooper said, "And Jared Polis is just the person to lead us."
He added: "I am truly honored to be allowed to pass the baton — in one of the greatest traditions of American democracy — to a person I admire very much."
Before the ceremony, the Denver Gay Men's Chorus, the Denver Women's Chorus and the Rocky Mountain Arts Association serenaded spectators as they arrived with tunes from Broadway musicals "Hamilton," "Dear Evan Hansen," and others. And during the inauguration, Colorado poets serenaded the nascent Polis administration with compositions written for the occasion.
Anne Waldman, a founder of the writing school at Boulder's Naropa University and a one-time associate of the Beat poets, riffed on the role of negative ions and noted that "Polis" means city-state in Greek. As the inaugural events drew to a close, Toluwanimi Obiwole, the Nigerian-born former Denver youth poet laureate, brought members of the crowd to their feet with her poem.
Polis succeeds Hickenlooper, a fellow Democrat who served two terms and is now exploring a presidential run. Hickenlooper got a standing ovation after addressing the crowd.
Polis ran on an ambitious platform that touted reforms in health care, education and energy, although he often was short on specifics on how he planned to pay for his goals.
Tuesday night, a "Blue Sneaker Ball" honoring Polis is planned, named after the footwear Polis sported during his campaign. Pop singer and LGBTQ activist Cyndi Lauper and the Colorado-based R&B combo Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats were set to perform.
This is a developing story and will be updated.