In her response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer emphasized civic engagement and her commitment to a hopeful future for America.
“We and all Americans might be weary of today’s politics, but we must stay engaged,” Whitmer said. “Our country, our democracy, our future demand it. We’re capable of great things when we work together.”
Whitmer gave the speech on Tuesday evening at her daughters’ school, East Lansing High School. Generally, the Democrat’s rebuttal has been given by rising politicians in the Democratic party, allowing them to present their opposition in front of the nation.
In a press release, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, spoke about the various reasons for choosing Whitmer to give the speech.
“Governor Whitmer’s dedication to Michiganders is a model for public servants everywhere,” Schumer said in the press release. “Whether it’s pledging to ‘Fix the Damn Roads’ or investing in climate solutions, Governor Whitmer’s vision for the future is exactly what this country needs, and I’m thrilled she is giving the Democratic response.”
Michigan, Whitmer’s home state, is also considered a key battleground state in the upcoming 2020 election. Whitmer won her gubernatorial race by 10 points over former Republican State Attorney General Bill Schuette in 2018, two years after Trump won the state by a slight margin over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Since being elected, Whitmer has worked across the aisle to expand affordable health care initiatives, create a task force committed to improve the state’s drinking water and invest billions of dollars to rebuild and improve Michigan’s infrastructure.
Whitmer opened her response by promising to stay focused on her and the Democratic Party’s commitment to issues in Michigan and the country as a whole.
“After all, you can listen to what someone says, but to know the truth, watch what they do,” Whitmer said. “Michiganders are no different from Americans everywhere. We love our families and want a good life today and a better life tomorrow for our kids.”
She shared the story of 13-year-old Monte Scott, who grew tired of waiting for politicians to fix the potholes in his Michigan hometown. Whitmer said Scott grabbed a shovel to fill in the potholes himself and called on politicians to invest more in America’s infrastructure.
She next talked about her own troubling personal experiences with the U.S. health care system. Whitmer also expressed Democrats’ commitment to creating a stronger and more affordable health care system.
“For me, for so many Americans, health care is personal, not political,” Whitmer said. “I was holding down a new job, caring for my newborn daughter as well as my mom at the end of her brain cancer battle. It was hard. It exposed the harsh realities of our workplaces, our health care system, and our child care system, and it changed me.”
Whitmer next rebutted a claim Trump made during his State of the Union address. Trump said that the stock market has soared more than 70 percent and gained $12 trillion in value during his presidency.
“This is a record,” Trump said. “It is something every country in the world is looking up to.”
Fact-checkers at The New York Times rated the claim false, noting that since Trump won the presidency in 2016, the S&P 500-stock index and the Dow Jones industrial average were both up by approximately 60 percent.
Whitmer responded to this in her speech by emphasizing how much work still has to be done to build an economy that works for all Americans.
“It doesn’t matter what the president says about the stock market,” Whitmer said. “What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans or prescription drugs. … So, when the president says the economy is strong, my question is: strong for whom?”
Next, Whitmer talked about the improvements in education that Democrats from various states have made in the last year and expressed her confidence in the next generation. She closed her speech by urging the American public to continue to pay attention to all the things going on in Washington.
“It’s not what those senators say,” Whitmer said. “Tomorrow, it’s about what they do that matters. Remember, listen to what people say but watch what they do. It’s time for action. Generations of Americans are counting on us. Let’s not let them down.”
Following Whitmer’s response, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., called for legislative action to address issues impacting working-class Americans on Twitter.
“I am worried about the State of our Union,” Dingell wrote. “We have to find ways to come together for the working men and women of this country to lower cost of prescription drugs, ensure the people who have pre-existing conditions have access to quality, affordable healthcare, that our kids can get a good education, and people who have worked hard for a lifetime are able to have a safe and secure retirement. Coming off the speech, we can’t afford to keep fighting from now until November. I hope there are areas where we can work together for the benefit of all Americans.”
Caroline Martin, member of the University’s chapter of College Republicans and LSA junior, spoke to The Daily about her thoughts on Whitmer’s response and its similarities to the State of the Union.
“(Whitmer used) the same tactic honestly that the State of the Union used, which is hitting home, individuals and the ideas and the concepts of the American family,” Martin said. “They’re sort of good messages that she’s putting out and, you know, the idea of fixing the roads and improving the overall quality of life for American families. I just think the difference is the two parties obviously have differences on how to achieve that.”
LSA sophomore Regina Egan, College Democrats communications director, praised Whitmer’s speech.
“Governor Whitmer notably brought national attention to a critical question facing Americans: how well does our country’s infrastructure — in the form of roads, health care, education, etc. — serve the majority of Americans?” Egan said. “Like Governor Whitmer, College Democrats believes in a future of this country that serves each and every one of its constituents.”
Staff reporter Julia Forrest can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.