(WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was among the small group of people allowed to attend President Joe Biden’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., Wednesday.
“This was the fourth inauguration that I’ve been to and it was different than anything I’ve ever seen,” Whitmer said, referencing the unprecedented security in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and limited attendance to minimize the spread of COVID-19. “And yet, to see (Vice President) Kamala Harris take her oath of office and to be sitting with my two daughters as that happened is a moment that I will never forget.”
“It felt very different and yet it honored the traditions we’re used to, and so it was comforting in that way,” she continued. “I left with the feeling of great hope and optimism and determination.”
She said Biden’s inaugural speech, which called for unity amid a “cascade of crises” including racial inequity, a pandemic that has killed 400,000 Americans and deep political divisions, established a “a goal that we must all redouble our efforts toward.”
“The people that are at the top have a responsibility to bring us together, not foment division and hate. We’re seeing a dramatic change in that regard right now,” Whitmer said. “So it starts with Joe Biden and I know it’s something he’s committed to; he’s made his career about that. I think it extends to leaders in the private sector who are stepping up now… I think every one of us can make a contribution toward that end and it benefits every one of us if we do.”
Asked why she felt comfortable traveling to a public event in the midst of a pandemic and while restrictions still have restaurant dining room closed, Whitmer noted that the event was outdoors and socially distant and that everyone was wearing masks.
“That is how we can live and enjoy some important aspects of life and stay safe,” she said. “I have been following the same directives I’ve asked everyone else to.”
She said it was also important for her to attend as governor to nurture a healthy relationship with the White House.
Whitmer, a Democrat like Biden and Harris, worked on their campaign and is co-chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Biden has also nominated Whitmer to serve as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.