Remarks from Gov. Blanco service

Blanco's friends remember her at Baton Rouge service
Remembering Gov. Kathleen Blanco
Posted at 10:57 AM, Aug 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-22 11:57:14-04

The interfaith service to remember Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco is underway in Baton Rouge at this hour.

Here are some of the euologies which have been delivered.

Here's the full text of Gov. John Bel Edwards' remarks:

"Distinguished guests, former Governor Jindal, most especially Mrs. Babineaux, Coach and the entire Blanco family… Thank you for the honor of being able to celebrate and pay tribute to a great woman I was fortunate enough to know well and to call a mentor and a friend.

Two years before my election as governor in 2015, and long before many thought I could win, Governor Blanco invited our family to Lafayette to have supper so that my kids would hear from her children what to expect of life in the Governor’s Mansion. I don’t share this with you to highlight the election or her clairvoyance. Rather, I share this with you to highlight her generous spirit. She personally spent time with each of our children.

That night, she also spoke to me about the need to focus on the least fortunate and most vulnerable in Louisiana. She did not cite Matthew 25, but I knew that passage greatly influenced her: “Master, when did I see you hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, or in prison.”

This deep and abiding love for the people of our state made her a special leader – authentic, consistent and sincere.

We all know that Kathleen Babineaux Blanco was the first woman to hold the office of governor of Louisiana. And she certainly won’t be the last. Kathleen’s faith, life experiences, and genuine concern for others allowed her to connect on a deeply personal level with nearly every person she met. Every person here believes that Kathleen knew and loved them individually – and all of you are right.

She was a true Cajun who was born in Iberia Parish. She was a mother who knew the joy of raising six children. But at the same time, she was a mother who knew the unimaginable heartbreak of losing a child. A devout Catholic, she leaned on her faith for guidance and comfort.

She was the sum of her cumulative experiences, but so much more. She was a stay-at-home mom. A teacher. A public service commissioner. A state representative. A Lt. Governor. And, yes, she was the 54th Governor of the great state of Louisiana.

She was a good and decent person who understood people because she understood life – its beauty as well as its hardships.

She led Louisiana through some of its darkest days. And as a believer in divine providence, she would tell you she knew she was put in that position for a reason. I believe that. I also believe she was meant to be governor of this great state for many other reasons.

There was one group who needed her passionate and compassionate leadership more than any other: Louisiana’s children.

Some might say that being a teacher or being a mother is what sparked her love of children. Certainly, that is the case. But I know that her devotion to the wellbeing of children ran much deeper. She saw every child as a child of God and a brother or sister in Christ, and accordingly, she felt the responsibility to care for them as if they were her own.

It is fitting that just before I got up to speak the children’s choir performed “This Little Light of Mine” because that is what she wanted for every child – for their light to shine into a brighter future. A future where the quality of their education is not contingent on their zip codes. A future where no parent ever needs to wonder how to pay for their child’s doctor’s visit.

A future where a child from even the most modest of means and the most challenging of circumstances can grow up in a world filled with opportunity – including the opportunity to be governor.

On July 2, Donna and I attended a ceremony in Lafayette to name a section of US Highway 90 the Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Highway. She and Coach were so excited about it. A couple of weeks ago, I returned to Lafayette to see her at St. Joseph Hospice. As soon as I approached her she opened her eyes, looked right at me and asked if I had another highway to name for her. She then smiled and laughed.

In addition to her sense of humor and contagious optimism, one of the things I will cherish most about Kathleen is that she never stopped fighting for the people of this state. For example, she knew that their wellbeing is intrinsically tied to the wellbeing of critical institutions such as our universities and hospitals.

So while literally fighting for her life, she, with Coach by her side, also fought to adequately fund ULL and University Hospital in Lafayette when the fiscal cliff threatened their viability.

Kathleen once said, “My values, our values, aren’t about pointing fingers. They are about offering a helping hand.” That is the very embodiment of what it means to be a true Louisianan.

I wish that we could have had her sage counsel and loving generosity for many more years. I wish it for this state, I wish it for me, and I wish it for the incredible family that she and Coach created.

But let’s commit here and now to focus not on the void created by her passing, but to forever treasure the blessing that she was, and let’s give thanks to God for the many beautiful ways she enriched our lives and our state.

Perhaps the greatest gift any of us can ask for is to be able to say at the end of our days, as the powerful hymn goes, “it is well, it is well, with my soul.” Kathleen had that opportunity. She found peace.

And I hope that part of her peace was knowing that she can trust us to continue her legacy of caring for the people of this beautiful state that she so proudly served and that she so dearly loved. So let’s honor her by doing just that. God bless."

Here are the remarks of Kim Hunter Reed, who served as Blanco's deputy chief of staff and now is Louisiana's Commissioner of Higher Education.

A Mother's Love. Devoted, protective, ever present and ever uplifting, it is nurturing and never ending.

Kathleen Babineaux Blanco - felt a mother's love from the woman who gave her life.

She shared a mother's love with her children, grandchildren, with those of us who worked for her and with her. And yes, she had a mother's love for her Louisiana.

She celebrated our joy, wiped our tears when we hurt, dreamed of what could be and worked tirelessly to improve our reality. Like the mother pelican on our state flag - she was willing to sacrifice for her Louisiana.

Today we gather to celebrate her life. A wife, daughter, mother, grandmother, teacher, and a trailblazer - for the first time in the history of our state, Louisiana called on one of her daughter's to lead - and lead she did.

A woman of many firsts, Kathleen launched many leaders into public service and nurtured new and aspiring leaders until the end - with sound advice, a listening ear and lots of encouragement.

I am honored to share the experience of so many in this church having worked directly for her and with her. During that experience I learned about Blanco values, Blanco time, Blanco blue …and yes, that Blanco force - COACH!

She was an advocate for education. She believed that it was within her grasp to move people from poverty to prosperity with access to better health care, education and employment.

For many of us the last time we gathered together in this Cathedral was to celebrate her inauguration - an exciting new dawn. Today we gather to celebrate a life well lived - as her beautiful sun has set. That sun that provided light in good times and warmth in challenging times.

She played the hand she was dealt, often improving on it.

When she was criticized as having a heavy hand and negatively referred to as a "queen bee" - she joyfully embraced that and the queen bee jewelry appeared.

If she called you in for a chat, she could easily get a yes out of a weary employee who minutes before was definitely prepared and practicing to say no.

She believed in good "common sense" solutions, was a proud penny pincher and was determined to get things done based on facts, data, sound arguments and good policy. The kind of work that the policy center that bears her name at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette now carries the torch to advance.

As a former teacher - she set out to increase educational opportunities- bringing higher education funding to a record high and teacher pay as well. She created Louisiana's need-based aid program to expand opportunities for more college bound students in our state. Because she believed as she often stated that - education is poverty's mortal enemy.

She gave voice to those who were rarely heard or seen or considered with little consideration of the political consequences. For her good politics was what was good for the people.

Kathleen was in every way a servant leader.

"In my heart I always understood God was preparing me for unknown challenges and of course those challenges came, she said. God puts you where he wants you to be."

Her faith is her legacy. It anchored her in times of storm - burying a child, carrying the weight of a state recovery after not just one but two back to back mega-storms and yes facing her own mortality which she did with grace, courage and a deep sense of peace.

It was just like Kathleen to share the news of her illness in a way that rallied Louisiana - this time to prayer. She did not say I'm in the fight of my life with anxiety and an urgent request for prayers….

No her letter was first a thank you to the people of Louisiana, it was a testament to her belief in the power of prayers and a simple request - I would deeply appreciate it, if you should see fit, that you offer prayers on behalf of myself as well as all others fighting to survive life threatening illnesses.

Not a request solely about self, not written to gain sympathy but a testament to the power of people and prayer.

When I visited her again last week while weakened from her cancer fight, she smiled and lifted her arms so that I could get one last great hug. She quizzed me about my daughter and of my work….and of course I had to remind her that I was there to check on her - it was a special visit.

On August 18th at 2:54pm our 54th governor was called home having hung on to celebrate her 55th wedding anniversary and coach's birthday last week.

It is said that parents give us two things - roots and wings

Like a mighty oak…Kathleen has left us with deep roots, the kind that are common in our Louisiana - roots that ground our work, anchor our moral compass and tie us to this place that we call home.

She has also given us wings to soar to new heights - seeking to lift as we climb- to carry the torch of service as advocates for education, and champions for children.

Louisiana is a better place because Kathleen Babineaux Blanco served and sacrificed, lived and loved.

Thank you governor for giving it your all. We love you and we miss you.

May she Rest in Peace.