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President Trump invokes Detroit in plea for unity

Melissa Nann Burke, and Keith Laing

Washington — President Donald Trump gave an inaugural speech Friday that criticized politicians, mentioned Detroit and prompted divided opinions from Michigan’s congressional Republicans and Democrats.

The Republican president said politicians in Washington prospered, “but the jobs left, and the factories closed” — a key message of his presidential campaign.

He also decried the plight of urban communities — “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, the Zeeland Republican who was attending his second inauguration, hailed the speech.

“I don’t know that anybody in recent memory has laid down the marker for the American worker as this guy has,” Huizenga said. “He put the marker out there that he is someone who’s going to be fighting for them.”

Huizenga also heard from Trump that he will demand action, not talk, from elected officials.

But the inaugural address dismayed U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, who was attending her first inauguration.

“Our new president stood up and acknowledged no one for their contributions. He criticized every politician as being the people who destroyed America,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence did applaud Trump’s call to repair decaying infrastructure, protect the homeland and create jobs. But she said she had mixed emotions.

“Under President Obama, I felt I was in an America that knew I was there and acknowledged me and I felt a part of it,” she said. “Watching my incoming president today, I tell you today, I don’t feel a part of his presidency.”

Trump mentions Detroit

Rep. John Conyers of Detroit, the dean of the U.S. House, was among the dozens of Democratic lawmakers boycotting Friday’s ceremony on Capitol Hill. He was the only one of the 16-member Michigan delegation, comprised of nine Republicans and seven Democrats, who publicly said he would not plan to attend the inauguration.

Conyers said this week he wouldn’t attend due to concerns over a number of “divisive and inflammatory” statements by Trump, including criticism of civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, last weekend after Lewis questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency.

During the speech, Trump mentioned Detroit, a city he visited in early September for a church service and interview, and in late September for a fundraiser at the Chrysler House. On the campaign trail, Trump has vowed to revive cities such as Detroit and Flint.

“Whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots,” he said. “We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms and we all salute the same great American flag.

“And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the wind-swept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.”

It was the first inauguration for Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, who brought his children to witness the event. He said Trump’s talk about Detroit and Nebraska was an attempt “to explain that he’ll be a president for all and address issues that affect all of us.

“I thought that was really a poignant moment for him. Because there’s lots of negativity about what kind of president he’ll be, but I think he’ll be a unifier,” Bishop said.

But U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, didn’t like the tone of Trump’s speech.

“It was surprisingly dark to me,” said Stabenow, according to Bloomberg News. “Not very hopeful or inspirational. I see a lot of hopefulness in our cities and hopefulness among our people, and he described a very dire picture of America that I don’t share.”

Trump was welcomed by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, the Flint Township Democrat who said in a statement that “I hope that after a bitter and partisan campaign, President Trump will rise to the occasion and be a president for all Americans.

“Like many, I have continued concerns with President Trump’s rhetoric and temperament. ... My constituents want me to hold the new president and Republicans in Congress accountable, and I intend to do so over the coming years.”

Event generates excitement

Before the ceremony, spectators were pouring onto the National Mall in a light drizzle. Sidewalk vendors sold umbrellas and red hats embroidered with “Make America Great Again.”

Thousands of Michiganians attended, including Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Before the ceremony, Snyder was in the Capitol waiting to go out on the platform with other governors, including Chris Christie of New Jersey and John Kasich of Ohio. He said he was excited for his first presidential inauguration.

“It’s a historic event for our country. We have a new president and vice president, and it’s great to be here and share in this experience,” Snyder said before the ceremony.

“...It’s a great opportunity to bring people together around a vision we can all get excited about.”

Trump supporter Robert Lee of Fort Gratiot in St. Clair County said he was there on the Mall after volunteering for Trump’s campaign.

“I felt like this wasn’t something I could miss out on. It’s the final piece to everything I’ve been working on,” Lee said.

He ate breakfast Thursday at the new Trump International Hotel (“The most I’ll ever pay for breakfast: $88”), and was excited to run into Detroit native Ben Carson, Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, near the White House. They took a selflie photo together.

“Where we’re from — Port Huron and Fort Gratiot — there’s a lot of Trump supporters but not nearly as many as I’ve seen here the last two days,” Lee said.

“It’s a really good feeling to see everyone involved — to see people care about the country like this. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Students witness history

At least two Michigan high schools had students at the Friday inauguration. Twenty-nine students from Oxford High School’s travel club trekked to the Mall.

“It’s an opportunity for students to experience history in the making,” said Jake Trotter, one of the club’s advisers and a school history teacher. “...We have students on this trip whose candidate didn’t win, and they’re having just as much fun as students whose candidate did win.”

One challenge was navigating the city through the traffic, crowds and security checkpoints.

“We encountered some protests, but it didn’t drastically deter us from doing anything,” Trotter said. “…We had several students that enjoyed seeing freedom of speech at its finest, where you saw both ends of the spectrum.”

Michael Brya and Teresa Patterson of DeWitt High School traveled with 25 students to witness the inauguration of Trump.

Brya, who teaches about government, said many of his students were in awe of the pageantry associated with the inauguration.

“They were really kind of impressed with everything with the smooth transition of power from one administration to the next,” he said.

Rachel Madar, a senior at DeWitt High, said the inauguration was a “surreal experience.”

“It was a great atmosphere that we weren’t exactly used to,” she said. “I think we will look back on it and be glad we came.”

Madar said she and her schoolmates on the trip were surprised to hear Trump mention Detroit in his inaugural address.

“We kind of looked around at each other and thought: Maybe that will be the thing that connects us to him,” she said.

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