Several Wisconsin political leaders watched the inauguration of Barack Obama Tuesday, either in person or on television, and they expressed various degrees of optimism for the new president.
Meanwhile, in an unofficial poll, the majority of readers of the BizTimes Daily bulletin on Tuesday also expressed optimism about the new administration. The poll asked, "Are you optimistic about Barack Obama as the president of the United States?" Sixty percent answered "yes," while 40 percent answered "no."
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, two of Obama’s earliest supporters in the Democratic primary, both attended the inauguration ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Doyle told WisPolitics.com that the inauguration of the first African-American president was an "historic moment, one that is great for the United States and for the state of Wisconsin." Doyle was seated directly behind former NBA star Earvin "Magic" Johnson at the ceremony.
Doyle praised Obama’s address as "brilliant" and said he was "very moved" when Obama spoke of America’s position in the world.
"When he talked directly to the rest of the world, that was the most moving part of it," Doyle said. Obama spoke of "who we are as a country and sending a very strong signal that while we’re not going to be afraid to act when challenged, we also want to work with the rest of the countries of the world."
Barrett drove to Washington with his family to attend the event and turned around for the ride home after the ceremony.
"I think people would agree that the sad state of the economy is what needs the most attention," Barrett told WisPolitics.com. "I’ve never seen so many people in one place in my life. As far as I could see, it was just a see of humanity. We saw history made (Tuesday), but there’s probably no more difficult time to become president than right now. The only thing I can compare it to is in 1932 when FDR beat President Herbert Hoover."
Barrett said he planned to lobby for Milwaukee’s share of federal infrastructure dollars.
"What they call invisible infrastructures like the sewers under the city, those kinds of investments, can put people to work and are necessary to put the economy back on track," Barrett said.
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, a Republican, issued the following statement after attending the presidential inaugural event at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee Tuesday:
"President Obama’s words today were outstanding. Now, we need to work with him to brave those ‘icy currents’ and ‘endure what storms may come.’ This is an historic and inspirational day. Let us go forth and act on that inspiration."
U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls) attended the ceremony and then issued the following statement: "Having attended eight consecutive inauguration ceremonies, I can safely say that this was the most historic I had the honor of attending. Under the shadow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday the nation celebrated (Monday), America saw its first African-American, Barack Obama, sworn in to the office of the president of the United States (Tuesday). With people lining the National Mall from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, Americans here in Washington, D.C., and across the country, celebrated the commencement of the 44th president’s term. During his speech, President Obama spoke of hope and trust, and of leading with dignity. Well, it is with hope and trust that I look forward to working with our new commander-in-chief. While we will inevitably disagree on some issues and of their resolution, I look forward to discussing them and sharing our respective perspectives, so that we may reach the common ground that benefits all Americans equally. I congratulate the president, and I wish him well."
Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines Jr. watched the ceremony from the National Mall.
"This is obviously an enormously significant day in our nation’s history, as our federal government has sworn in the first African-American president of the United States," Hines said. "For me personally, to be here among the millions of citizens who traveled to see the ceremony in person, it was an exhilarating experience. I take special note of the fact that people of all ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds have given their support to our new president. He is not only a national leader for African-Americans, but for all of us. From the announcement of his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois, to his numerous visits to Milwaukee, to the powerful speech he gave (Tuesday) in Washington, I am grateful to have witnessed the inspiring rise of Barack Obama,. Just as importantly, I look forward to supporting him as president. I know that President Obama and Vice President Biden will need our prayers and support as they embark on a truly difficult journey. We must all ask ourselves what we can do to make this an even greater nation and to make Milwaukee a better city."
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) expressed his optimism about the new president in Tuesday’s Milwaukee Biz Blog.
Business leaders also responded to the inauguration. Dan Danner, executive vice president of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), issued the following statement: "On behalf of America’s small businesses, which represent half of our nation’s economy, the National Federation of Independent Business congratulates President Obama on this historic day. The new administration faces many challenges, not the least of which is the current economic situation. During his campaign, the president made it clear that he recognized both the important role small businesses play in our economy and the challenges that face small business owners – access to affordable healthcare and a business climate that stimulates small business investment and growth. We’re encouraged by the productive meetings that we have had with the administration’s transition team over the past few months. We look forward to continuing to work with the president to ensure sustainable economic growth by providing America’s job creators with the tools they need to continue taking risks, investing in their businesses and creating new jobs. Mr. President, small businesses historically have led our country out of recession, and with your help, America’s entrepreneurs stand ready to do it again."
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.