Oxford student, business owner and retiree respond to Whitmer State of the State (2023)

Legislators and local dignitaries typically account for the bulk of the attendees at a State of the State address.

But the broad message and specific policy vision shared during this annual speech is intended to have the biggest impact on normal Michiganders.

So we reached out to a few Michigan residents who potentially have the most at stake in terms of some of the governor's policy proposals and broader ideas outlined in her fifth State of the State address this week.

Aubrey Greenfield, Allison Beers and Cathy Moore watched Whitmer's speech and provided their thoughts on her words. All agreed the governor can be a dynamic speaker, but they did share some criticism on what she proposed during the speech. Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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Aubrey Greenfield

Oxford student, business owner and retiree respond to Whitmer State of the State (1)

Greenfield, 17, is a senior at Oxford High School. She was a junior at the school in 2021, when a fellow student killed four students while injuring six peers and a teacher in a mass shooting.

Freep: What did you think of the governor's speech? Did you think it was inspirational and moving, or was it lacking?

(Video) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to deliver State of the State address

Greenfield: The Gov. has this charm about her. I don’t know whether it is her references to things that make her down-to-earth, or how she stands tall and speaks with precision and emphasis on what matters, or a combination. Either way, I am thrilled for what lies ahead. She is a very good public speaker whose speech and body language drew me in and had me listening in the entire time without an itch to do anything else. Her speech restored confidence in me that things will get done and make the lives of the people I care about better.

Freep: Gov. Whitmer forecast she would push for gun control-related issues during her speech. Do you think she went far enough? In general, what did you make of her proposals?

Greenfield: I am very pleased that Governor Whitmer addressed a variety of goals she had for gun safety in her upcoming term. However, I am frustrated by her lack of specificity in how she planned to get things done. Earlier in her speech, she got very specific with what programs Michigan had, such as the Great Start Readiness Program. She went into detail about this, mentioning exactly how much families would be saving. When referencing a safe storage law, she does not go into any detail on it. She just mentions it and moves on to her other points.

There is comfort in knowing specifics on how students will be protected under her leadership, yet she did not provide any details to back this comfort up. In her speech though, I really liked how she made it clear that she was not discussing law-abiding gun owners.

Freep: Did the speech give you optimism that lawmakers might take action on gun-related laws? Or on school safety? If so, why, and if not, why not?

Greenfield: I am enthusiastic about the future of Michigan and gun safety. Considering Democrats now hold majorities in both the Michigan House and Michigan Senate, I feel that gun-related laws will finally get the hearings they deserve. Her speech used many appeals to emotion that connect listeners to the issue. For example, she mentions how a student from Plymouth wrote to her and pleaded to feel safe at school. No one wants their child, like the student from Plymouth, to feel fearful going in and learning.

I am happy to hear that she actually sees the letters that pass through her desk and is impacted by them enough to mention them in her address. I feel that she actually cares about gun safety, and I am confident she will pursue and support measures that emphasize this. It was painful when those of us in Oxford were almost begging for a hearing on gun-related legislation and got completely ignored by lawmakers. With a supportive Legislature around her, Whitmer will do what needs to be done to help prevent another Oxford from happening in Michigan.

Freep: Was there anything else from the speech that stood out to you? If so, what?

(Video) Highlights from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's State of the State 2023

Greenfield: The reactions to her speech stood out to me. When people were clapping as she discussed her plans for infrastructure and gun safety, Republicans did not participate. I find this incredibly immature, especially coming from elected officials. How dare Gov. Whitmer prioritize student safety? The same people who did not clap are the same ones who refuse to protect children even though they claim they are “pro-life.” I don’t find it very “pro-life” to vote against gun safety measures that could have saved my community from tragedy. The governor’s speech highlighted her daughters' upcoming journey after high school and how she is thinking of her as she promotes policies.

More:Gov. Whitmer wants a 'red flag' gun law. Here's what that means

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Allison Beers

Oxford student, business owner and retiree respond to Whitmer State of the State (2)

Beers, 44, is the owner of Events North, a meeting and events management agency in Traverse City.

Freep: What did you think of the governor's speech? Did you find it moving or inspirational, or did you think it was lacking?

Beers: I thought the speech was upbeat, celebratory and ambitious. I thought at times it lacked detail that would be helpful to the average person watching, but I know it was only an hour long. I look forward to hearing more detailed plans.

Freep: As a small business owner, what changes do you want the governor and Legislature to pursue? Do you think Gov. Whitmer addressed those in her speech?

Beers: She did not go into detail, but if we are going to attract businesses, remote workers who chose to make Michigan home, and support our state’s growth, a first priority of the MI Infrastructure Office needs to be quality internet access in rural areas. During the pandemic, it became even more apparent when my employees who live only 15 miles from town didn’t have stable, reliable internet. She listed a LOT of areas in this plan, I’m intrigued to hear more about what is feasible in the near term.

(Video) Michigan Gov. Whitmer signs education budget: Here’s what’s in it

Freep: Are there specific issues you hear from workers or prospective workers that you believe government needs to tackle? If so, did you hear Gov. Whitmer address any of them in her speech?

Beers: My employees have young children. I was very pleased to hear about the free pre-K plan, however, if we as a state don’t tackle the dire need to support even earlier childhood care as soon as possible, we will never attract or retain young talent that wants to raise a family in Michigan. I know there have been baby steps. I’ve seen them in northern Michigan, but I see this issue as a mission critical need. Support and solutions are not coming soon enough or fast enough.

During the summer months when parents are working and children are off of school, there are very limited options in northern Michigan and limited spots for young children in the programs that are offered. Finding child care in the summer is harder than finding Taylor Swift concert tickets.

Freep: Anything else you'd like to add on the governor's address?

Beers: We do need to put a stop to violence in this state. As a parent, a day does not go by without me worrying when my kids leave for school and wondering if my hug and kiss this morning will be my last one. However, while I agree with some of the ideas listed for gun control, we need to look upstream and support the systematic problem, lack of mental health support. Looking at the problem from only one aspect is shortsighted. There is lack of mental health resources in northern Michigan. Waitlists are long and the price of paying mental health is a hindrance. Why can’t we be a leader in the country and support mental health services? Provide access and make it easier to find the help you need.

More:Michigan’s child care crisis is much worse than policymakers have estimated

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Cathy Moore

Oxford student, business owner and retiree respond to Whitmer State of the State (3)

Moore, 72, is a retiree who lives in Jackson.

(Video) Whitmer pushes lower costs, affordable education, gun reforms at State of the State

Freep: What did you think of the governor's speech? Did you think it was inspirational and moving, or was it lacking?

Moore: The governor's speech had ups and downs. She is not a boring speaker, she recognized so many people for their work. All and all, it was not uplifting to me.

Freep: How would a tax cut affect your life?In the past, the governor has specifically advocated for easing the tax burden on people with public pensions. Do you think that's a smart plan, or should she push for a broader tax cut that would help a bigger pool of retirees?

Moore: The tax cut will only affect half a million seniors; there are approximately 4 million in Michigan, so this too did uplift me. For those that will see the benefit of the retirement tax cut, great; seniors/retirees need all the help we can get and hopefully this will be seen someday. The specifics of the tax cut weren’t clear to me. The cut should be broader to affect a greater number of retirees, (not) just public retirees.

Freep: Apart from taxes, what other big issues as a retiree do you want the government to address? Do you think the governor mentioned them in her speech?

Moore: The governor's speech focused more on those under 50 years of age. I would have liked to hear more about what her plans are for seniors/retirees, if she had any. We need a reduced cost for nursing homes, long-term care in our state, helping seniors to live at home if they so desire or a safe senior housing that is affordable and maintained.

Freep: Anything else that stood out to you in the speech?

Moore: Her speech touched on a lot of items, but I would like to see, as she says, “Let’s get it done." Politics is just that: politics. Being a woman of color, I just wait to see what the person in office does.

(Video) Michigan Gov. Whitmer delivers first State of the State


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