Inaugurations of new governors an 'uplifting' time
Dress warmly if you're going to Gretchen Whitmer's inauguration Tuesday, says Michigan's first first gentleman. And with the voice of experience, Daniel Mulhern also says to remember to be awestruck.
Michigan's 49th governor will take the oath of office outside the Capitol building in Lansing on a typically chilly New Year's Day with a predicted high a few degrees below freezing.
Mulhern, the husband of the 47th governor, Jennifer Granholm, had a ringside seat both times she was sworn in. After the first ceremony, in 2003, they rode from the Capitol to the Lansing Center in a red Mustang convertible with the top down, "and I don't think we warmed up for a week."
But if you look and listen the right way, Mulhern says, inaugurations should give you a glow.
Whitmer's will begin at 10:30 a.m. with a performance by the 126th Army Band of the Michigan National Guard. It's scheduled to end at noon after oaths are taken by winners of the elections for State Board of Education, the Michigan Court of Appeals, the ruling bodies of the University of Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State, Michigan Supreme Court, attorney general, secretary of state, lieutenant governor and lastly governor.
The ceremony, called "Building Bridges Together," is free to the public. Though registration is not necessary, press secretary Nicole Simmons said nearly 3,500 people had posted an RSVP at michiganinaugural.org five days ahead of the event.
An inaugural ball will follow from 7-10 p.m. at Cobo Center in Detroit, with tickets $150 on the website. Free public events, paid for by donors under the umbrella title Whitmer Winter Warmups, are set for Jan. 12 in Detroit and Flint, Jan. 26 in Grand Rapids and Feb. 16 in Marquette — all cozily indoors.
But before any of that, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein will administer Whitmer's oath of office on a morning when the big picture is more important than politics.
"I want to say it's magic, even if that sounds trite," says Mulhern, who's now teaching leadership at the University of California-Berkeley and living in Oakland with the ex-governor. "There's something humbling and uplifting about the transfer of power."
There was minimal love lost between Granholm and predecessor John Engler, he says, but it didn't matter. "At that moment, you're part of something bigger."
The symbolism, agrees former U.S. Representative and state senator Joe Schwarz, is at least as important as the words.
Schwarz, 81, a Republican from Battle Creek, attended all three of Engler's ceremonies, Gov. Rick Snyder's first and maybe his second: "I honestly can't remember if I went."
He's been seated with the VIPs, which offers a closer view, and he has stood in the crowd, where "you have the option of moving around to keep warm."
He's not sure which he'll do Tuesday when Whitmer, whom he crossed party lines to endorse, places her hand on a Bible around 11:30 a.m. What's important, he says, is "the ceremony of it — the fact that the inauguration takes place."
"There they are in front of the Capitol building," Schwarz says. Peacefully and respectfully, "change has been made. It's a good thing for people to see throughout the state."
People viewing the inauguration in person are encouraged to arrive early and assemble on the east lawn of the Capitol, Simmons said. There will be large video screens, along with abundant portable restrooms.
The invocation will be given by Rabbi Amy Bigman of Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, with prayers to be offered later by Pastor Solomon Kinloch Jr. of Triumph Church in Detroit and Imam Sheik Ahmad Hammoud of Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.
Other program points will include a flyover by the Michigan Air National Guard, the recognition of tribal nations, a parade of flags and a 19-gun salute by the 119th Field Artillery.
"Should the weather become disastrous," Simmons says, the ceremony will move indoors to the Senate chambers.
Should conditions simply be gray and bitter, Mulhern has a suggestion, though it's not of use to everyone.
"Be on the stage," he advises, "where there's a heater."