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Michigan leaders react to Joe Biden's inauguration

Joe Biden
Posted at 12:25 PM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 20:53:10-05

MICHIGAN — Officials have begun responding to the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president of the United States.

Michigan Rep. Fred Upton says the inauguration marks a new chapter in the history of the United States.

“Today marks a new chapter in American history as Joe Biden is sworn in as the United States’ 46th President. Our nation’s leaders must renew their commitment to working together in a bipartisan fashion to address the challenges facing the American people. COVID-19 is ravaging our country, the vaccine rollout has been disappointing, mom and pop shops are closing, and folks are struggling to keep food on the table. As a vice-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, I am rolling my sleeves up and extending a hand across the aisle to work with anyone from any party who is serious about solving problems. Let’s get to work.”

Bishop Walkowiak of the Grand Rapids Diocese acknowledged Biden being the second-ever Catholic president of the U.S.

We thank God for the blessings of liberty. The American people have spoken in this election. Now is the time for our leaders to come together in a spirit of national unity and to commit themselves to dialogue and compromise for the common good.

As Catholics and Americans, our priorities and mission are clear. We are here to follow Jesus Christ, to bear witness to His love in our lives, and to build His Kingdom on earth. I believe that at this moment in American history, Catholics have a special duty to be peacemakers, to promote fraternity and mutual trust, and to pray for a renewed spirit of true patriotism in our country.

Democracy requires that all of us conduct ourselves as people of virtue and self-discipline. It requires that we respect the free expression of opinions and that we treat one another with charity and civility, even as we might disagree deeply in our debates on matters of law and public policy.

As we do this, we recognize that Joseph R. Biden, Jr., has received enough votes to be elected the 46th President of the United States. We congratulate Mr. Biden and acknowledge that he joins the late President John F. Kennedy as the second United States president to profess the Catholic faith. We also congratulate Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California, who becomes the first woman ever elected as vice president.

We ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of this great nation, to intercede for us. May she help us to work together to fulfill the beautiful vision of America’s missionaries and founders — one nation under God, where the sanctity of every human life is defended and freedom of conscience and religion are guaranteed.

Rep. John Moolenaar congratulated the new administration.

"It was an honor to attend the 59th presidential inauguration today and I am thankful to the men and women of law enforcement and the military who helped ensure this was a safe event. Congratulations to President Biden, and also to Vice President Harris on her historic swearing-in. I wish them the best as they lead our nation and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the challenges facing our country. As soon as possible, we must defeat the virus, safely re-open the economy, and create a more prosperous nation for all Americans.”

Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow emphasized the importance of the peaceful transfer of power.

It was such an honor to witness history today as President Biden and Vice President Harris were sworn into office. The peaceful transfer of power is at the core of American democracy. Despite the events of these past weeks, today’s ceremony affirmed that the fabric of our country is strong. I intend to do everything in my power to help the Biden Administration bring our country together, combat the pandemic, get Americans back to work, and strengthen our democracy for our children and grandchildren.

Senator Gary Peters shared a video with his thoughts on the ceremony.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tweeted a photo of herself at the inauguration.

After the event, Whitmer released a statement saying that President Biden is focused on saving lives.

“On his first day in office, President Biden has made it clear that he is committed to ending the COVID-19 pandemic once and for all and building a stronger, more sustainable nation for future generations.

“President Biden’s action to urge Americans everywhere to do their part and mask up and launch a coordinated national response to the pandemic will undoubtedly save lives and put us on track to defeat our common enemy: COVID-19.

"And President Biden knows that the health of our people is inextricably linked with the health of our climate. His swift action to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and combat climate change will ensure a safer planet for our kids, grandkids, and generations to come. President Biden’s message is clear: we must all join forces to end the pandemic, save lives, and build back our country better. Let’s get to work.”

The Diocese of Kalamazoo offered prayers to Biden as he works to unite the nation, and also touched on the Catholic Church's views and relationship to politics.

My prayers are with our new President and his family today.

“I am praying that God grant him wisdom and courage to lead this great nation and that God help him to meet the tests of these times, to heal the wounds caused by this pandemic, to ease our intense political and cultural divisions, and to bring people together with renewed dedication to America’s founding purposes, to be one nation under God committed to liberty and equality for all.

“Catholic bishops are not partisan players in our nation’s politics. We are pastors responsible for the souls of millions of Americans and we are advocates for the needs of all our neighbors. In every community across the country, Catholic parishes, schools, hospitals, and ministries form an essential culture of compassion and care, serving women, children, and the elderly, the poor and sick, the imprisoned, the migrant, and the marginalized, no matter what their race or religion.

“When we speak on issues in American public life, we try to guide consciences, and we offer principles. These principles are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the social teachings of his Church. Jesus Christ revealed God’s plan of love for creation and revealed the truth about the human person, who is created in God’s image, endowed with God-given dignity, rights and responsibilities, and called to a transcendent destiny.

“Based on these truths, which are reflected in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, the bishops and Catholic faithful carry out Christ’s commandment to love God and love our neighbors by working for an America that protects human dignity, expands equality and opportunities for every person, and is open-hearted towards the suffering and weak.

“For many years now, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has tried to help Catholics and others of good will in their reflections on political issues through a publication we call Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The most recent edition addresses a wide range of concerns. Among them: abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, immigration, racism, poverty, care for the environment, criminal justice reform, economic development, and international peace.

“On these and other issues, our duty to love and our moral principles lead us to prudential judgments and positions that do not align neatly with the political categories of left or right or the platforms of our two major political parties. We work with every President and every Congress. On some issues we find ourselves more on the side of Democrats, while on others we find ourselves standing with Republicans. Our priorities are never partisan. We are Catholics first, seeking only to follow Jesus Christ faithfully and to advance his vision for human fraternity and community.

“I look forward to working with President Biden and his administration, and the new Congress. As with every administration, there will be areas where we agree and work closely together and areas where we will have principled disagreement and strong opposition.

“Working with President Biden will be unique, however, as he is our first president in 60 years to profess the Catholic faith. In a time of growing and aggressive secularism in American culture, when religious believers face many challenges, it will be refreshing to engage with a President who clearly understands, in a deep and personal way, the importance of religious faith and institutions. Mr. Biden’s piety and personal story, his moving witness to how his faith has brought him solace in times of darkness and tragedy, his longstanding commitment to the Gospel’s priority for the poor — all of this I find hopeful and inspiring.

“At the same time, as pastors, the nation’s bishops are given the duty of proclaiming the Gospel in all its truth and power, in season and out of season, even when that teaching is inconvenient or when the Gospel’s truths run contrary to the directions of the wider society and culture. So, I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.

“Our commitments on issues of human sexuality and the family, as with our commitments in every other area — such as abolishing the death penalty or seeking a health care system and economy that truly serves the human person — are guided by Christ’s great commandment to love and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable.

“For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the “preeminent priority.” Preeminent does not mean “only.” We have deep concerns about many threats to human life and dignity in our society. But as Pope Francis teaches, we cannot stay silent when nearly a million unborn lives are being cast aside in our country year after year through abortion.

“Abortion is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family. It is not only a private matter, it raises troubling and fundamental questions of fraternity, solidarity, and inclusion in the human community. It is also a matter of social justice. We cannot ignore the reality that abortion rates are much higher among the poor and minorities, and that the procedure is regularly used to eliminate children who would be born with disabilities.

“Rather than impose further expansions of abortion and contraception, as he has promised, I am hopeful that the new President and his administration will work with the Church and others of good will. My hope is that we can begin a dialogue to address the complicated cultural and economic factors that are driving abortion and discouraging families. My hope, too, is that we can work together to finally put in place a coherent family policy in this country, one that acknowledges the crucial importance of strong marriages and parenting to the well-being of children and the stability of communities. If the President, with full respect for the Church’s religious freedom, were to engage in this conversation, it would go a long way toward restoring the civil balance and healing our country’s needs.

“President Biden’s call for national healing and unity is welcome on all levels. It is urgently needed as we confront the trauma in our country caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the social isolation that has only worsened the intense and long-simmering divisions among our fellow citizens.

“As believers, we understand that healing is a gift that we can only receive from the hand of God. We know, too, that real reconciliation requires patient listening to those who disagree with us and a willingness to forgive and move beyond desires for reprisal. Christian love calls us to love our enemies and bless those who oppose us, and to treat others with the same compassion that we want for ourselves.

“We are all under the watchful eye of God, who alone knows and can judge the intentions of our hearts. I pray that God will give our new President, and all of us, the grace to seek the common good with all sincerity.

“I entrust all our hopes and anxieties in this new moment to the tender heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ and the patroness of this exceptional nation. May she guide us in the ways of peace and obtain for us wisdom and the grace of a true patriotism and love of country.”

Michigan Rep. Bill Huizenga said Biden gave the speech America needed to hear, but wonders whether Biden will also govern the way the country needs.

“After a tumultuous few weeks in Washington, I am glad to see our nation carry on its tradition of a peaceful inauguration. President Biden may have given the speech America needed to hear today, but the question is whether he will govern the way America needs him to lead for the future?

There are a multitude of challenges facing our nation that require solutions supported by both Republicans and Democrats. While there will be areas where the President and I disagree, I am hopeful we can work together to help West Michigan get back to work, strengthen the Great Lakes, and improve economic opportunity for Americans across all walks of life. Congratulations to President Biden and Vice President Harris. I am praying for both of you and our nation.”