Gov. Martin O’Malley used the word “forward” in his inaugural speech a dozen times.

That number was of some interest to the State House press corps. WYPR reporter Joel McCord had created a pool in which reporters guessed the number of times the gov would use one of his most repeated words from the campaign. “We move Maryland forward, not backward,” the Democratic chief executive would proclaim on the campaign trail.

O'Malley inaugural address

Gov. Martin O'Malley delivers his inaugural speech.

The fix was clearly in, as McCord himself won the pool. O’Malley’s speech as written – aptly titled “One Maryland: Forward Together” — had the word  “forward” 11 times (not counting the heading “Forward” for one section). But O’Malley at the podium ad-libbed a 12th “forward” as he praised Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

It was blessedly brief, well-delivered and absent the Irish poets O’Malley is overly fond of. The governor’s remarks to me Monday suggested the speech would need some theological analysis, but most of it was pretty much what I had predicted: “One Maryland moving forward.”

The address did stretch for its own bit of poetry.

“I believe in this decade of ours the better future we seek dawns first in Maryland,” O’Malley said.

The rhetoric seemed to falter a bit with some odd juxtapositions in one passage in the section on unity: “For Maryland is a vibrant, living system, blessed by a beautiful diversity: different cultures and forests, cities and towns, diverse religions and farmlands, historic universities and rivers, devotion and song.”

Perhaps this was an effort to diverge from the more standard groupings: different cultures and religions, diverse forests and farmlands, historic universities and towns.

But the last two paragraphs did try to hit the high notes, with a reference to a book about Trappist monk and poet Thomas Merton.

“We are here to make Maryland whole again. We must recognize ‘the unity that already is,’ and find ways to work together that strengthen that unity. This is our challenge: not of government alone or society as a whole, but of every individual who values the title of citizens.”

“And so with love, forgiveness, and humility, let us move forward as One Maryland, that our works – and the sacrifice of the days ahead – shall be worthy of the hope God sees in the eyes of our children.”

Indeed, there was an early reference to tough choices that would lead to the sacrifices ahead, but those choices will be communicated Friday afternoon in the five volumes of the state budget.

—Len Lazarick