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30th Anniversary of Gov. Wilder's Inauguration Celebrated

Man at podium
Inauguration of L. Douglas Wilder as 66th Governor of Virginia, January 13, 1990. (Photo: L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs)

VCU’s  Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs and Virginia Union University this week celebrated the 30th anniversary of the inauguration of L. Douglas Wilder as governor of Virginia with a virtual seminar attracting hundreds from across the country.

When he was inaugurated in January, 1990, Wilder became the nation’s first elected Black governor. Virginia Union University President Dr. Hakim Lukas said, “He rewrote the history books.”

And political analyst Larry Sabato said it was an election like no other. “The international coverage, not just the national coverage, was blinding.”

Thirty years later, Wilder talked about race relations then and now.  He said, “I was born in America, born in Virginia.  A product thereof.  Regretfully, there have been too many who feel that the differences of race and gender or social conditions separate us into enclaves.  I never believed that.  Unfortunately, there are many people left, who have used this false narrative to divide us.”

Born in Church Hill, a decorated Korean War veteran, he came home believing that race did not have to limit his dreams.

VCU President Dr. Michael Rao said of Wilder’s election:  “Part of what it represented for so many of us was the real American dream, the real opportunity that any of us have as an American to now take on a position of true leadership.  And if it could happen in Virginia, we thought ‘My goodness, it could happen just about anywhere.’”

Wilder also spoke to the protests this year, and called for accountability for elected officials. He said, “Problems didn’t come to bear when George Floyd was killed. They were there before. Surely, it is one thing to march, one thing to tear down statues, but the real issues are who is dealing with the systemic problems affecting us on a daily basis and that’s what needs to be attacked and who needs to be doing it?  The leaders!”

He said ultimately the answer is the ballot box, and if elected representatives are not responsive, he said, “Vote them out!”

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