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Watching Inauguration Day together, Michigan progressives see hope in Biden presidency

Courtesy of Sharon Buttry

As Joe Biden took the oath of office to become the 46th president of the United States, a group of more than 40 people watched on through an online viewing party organized by the progressive organization Michigan People’s Campaign.

Some cheered at the end of his first speech as President of the United States, but for many others, the occasion felt heavy after a divisive election, a violent insurrection, and an ongoing public health crisis.

Sharon Buttry is a retired reverend and volunteer with Michigan United. The Hamtramck resident said she appreciated that Biden focused on brokering peace instead of laying out a policy agenda.

“I think his message was very spiritual in a way that we need to heal our relationships and reach out to one another and promote the best in each other,” she said.

While she appreciated his promise for reconciliation, Buttry said that achieving that will be a challenge.

“Unity,” she said, “is not valuable unless it has the foundation of truth and justice.”

Buttry and others at the event said they hope Biden will move quickly to deliver accountability for what they see as wrongdoing by former Trump administration officials, in addition to policies focused on economic revitalization and criminal justice reform.

Dani Esterline said what impacted her most about the inauguration was not what President Biden said so much as the silent prayer he offered to those who had lost their lives to COVID-19. The 22-year-old recent college graduate said that moment felt like a tribute to her grandfather, who she says died from coronavirus last week.

Credit Bill Fahl
Courtesy of Dani Esterline

"But it just feels like a 10 pound weight has been lifted off of me and that might keep my grandfather's or my abuelita’s — his legacy will forever live on,” Esterline said.

Esterline, who is also a volunteer with Michigan United, said she's hoping that President Biden will work quickly to develop a national plan for social distancing measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Biden unveiled the “American Rescue Plan,” a $1.4 trillion legislative proposal to address coronavirus last week. The plan is aimed at speeding up the ongoing coronavirus vaccination campaign and offering an additional round of stimulus checks to boost the economy.

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Beenish Ahmed is Michigan Public's Criminal Justice reporter. Since 2016, she has been a reporter for WNYC Public Radio in New York and also a freelance journalist. Her stories have appeared on NPR, as well as in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, VICE and The Daily Beast.
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