By Katy Steinmetz
January 7, 2019

On Monday, Gavin Newsom took the stage in Sacramento to give his first speech as governor of California. But while it was a major moment for the former lieutenant governor to lay out his vision for America’s most populous state — including the ways in which he plans to resist the Trump Administration — his inaugural address may be remembered for the actions of a much younger man.

As was acknowledging the importance of housing in the “California dream,” his two-year-old son, Dutch, armed with a blanket and a pacifier, toddled across the stage to his father. “Now more than ever, we Californians know how much a house matters and children matter,” Newsom said as he lifted Dutch into his arms and the crowd broke into laughter.

Newsom kissed his son, who nuzzled into his shoulder, and the new governor, 51, held him through the next few minutes of his speech, which covered the importance of supporting families and early childhood education, issues he campaigned on. “In our home, every child should be loved, fed and safe. My wife Jennifer and I have four children, and there’s nothing more important — I hope you can tell — than giving them a good and happy life,” he said.

He went on to say that all children, regardless of economic or immigration status, deserve a good life in California and should not be “ripped away from their parents at the border.” It’s hard to imagine a more ideal optic for the new Democratic governor, who also promised to be a foil to Trump’s D.C., than embracing his youngest child as he criticized the family separations that have taken place under the Trump Administration. The line got enthusiastic applause. “This is exactly how it was scripted,” Newsom joked, as he put his son down and watched him amble around the stage.

The 40th governor of California was sworn in immediately before his remarks, alongside his family. And though he started by speaking about the importance of what he called the “California dream” — the idea that hard work and ingenuity will bring enormous payoffs, without prejudice — he quickly transitioned into taking shots at Trump.

“Now more than ever, it’s up to us to defend that dream,” Newsom said, as he named House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a fellow Democrat from California, as a “champion” in that fight. “In Washington, there’s an administration … that is clearly hostile to California values,” he went on, vowing to lead the state in a “progressive, principled” direction and “offer an alternative to the corruption and incompetence in the White House.”

Newsom is taking office without a major antagonist in the state. Outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown, a fellow Democrat and legend among California politicians, is popular. And Newsom trounced his Republican opponent in the election (hardly a surprise in a state where conservatives hold zero statewide offices). So resisting the Trump Administration has been a natural rallying point, one that Newsom also included in his victory speech as he attacked “the politics of chaos and the politics of cruelty” and said that California would be a “state of refuge.”

Newsom also spoke about unity in his own state. He promised to represent the conservatives who often feel ignored by the government and spent much of his speech addressing economic disparities in California, which has outsized poverty as well as outsized wealth in places like Silicon Valley and Beverly Hills. He vowed to “build a house” on top of the foundation that Jerry Brown built over the past eight years, as the outgoing governor became synonymous with fiscal responsibility and combatting climate change.

“We will not have one house for the rich and one for the poor,” Newsom said, as he began crafting his own image as governor. “We will build one house for one California.”

Like his predecessor, Newsom also did not shy away from positioning California as a leader among all states, even though conservatives like to use the liberal crusading of the Golden State as a foil in their own speeches.

“California has always helped write America’s future,” Newsom said. “We know the decisions we make would be important at any time, but what we do today is even more consequential because of what is happening in our country.” People’s lives, freedoms, security “hang in the balance,” he said.

“The country is watching us. The world is waiting on us,” Newsom went on. “And we will seize the moment.”

Write to Katy Steinmetz at [email protected].

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