Ellison praises Obama’s ‘daring’ outreach to Muslim world

President Obama shakes hands with the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery as Vice President Biden and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein watch.
President Obama shakes hands with the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery as Vice President Biden and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein watch.

Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison praised President Barack Obama for the inclusivity of his 18-minute Inaugural speech, saying it was “daring of him to address the Muslim world.”

The 5th District Democrat, the first Muslim elected to Congress, was pleased that Obama said “we seek a new way forward based on mutual interest and mutual respect.’’ The address was a “signal to nations around the world that America is open to talk,’’ noted Ellison, who recently named to the Foreign Relations Committee.

We’ll be adding reaction to Obama’s speech and the historic day from other members of the Minnesota delegation throughout the afternoon. Here is the early reaction:

Rep. Keith Ellison
Ellison sat with other members of Congress “a stone’s throw away” from the swearing-in of the new president and Vice President Joe Biden. He called the speech “business-like.’’

Obama’s comments followed through on his unity theme, Ellison said, recalling how the president talked about America being Muslim and Christian, Hindu, Jew, non-believers and all races, yet a nation that is finding strength in its diversity.

Ellison, in a phone interview, said he saw that coming together of Americans on the D.C. Metro last night, when he overheard strangers in conversation. A woman from Oregon showed concern for a woman from New Orleans. “How’s it going?” she wanted to know, the congressman said. 

Rep. Michele Bachmann
Rep. Michele Bachmann, who famously questioned Barack Obama’s patriotism last fall on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” said that she was “thrilled to be able to bear witness to this historic moment.” The 6th District congresswoman also offered her “sincerest congratulations to President Obama.”

“This is a profound day for America and for the American people – another shining milestone in our long, remarkable history as the world’s beacon of equality and justice,” Bachmann said in a statement.  “We should all take pride in this landmark achievement.”

Rep. Tim Walz
Congressman Tim Walz said in a statement that he was “humbled today by the words of President Obama as he began this new chapter in American history, not with overstated optimism or exaggerated bravado, but with clarity of purpose, confidence in our shared dream, and recognition of our challenging circumstances.”

“Average Americans have longed to be called to action, to be called into the service of their country,” said the 1st District congressman, who is a former public school teacher and retired National Guard Command sergeant major. “Today, President Obama reaffirmed the call of presidents-past for citizens to serve their communities and their country.”

Rep. Betty McCollum
Congresswoman Betty McCollum called Obama’s nomination “a new beginning for America and a triumph for the American people.”

“This man of great talent, intellect and character takes on the mantle of leadership at a time when too many of our fellow citizens are suffering and all our families want to believe in the promise of a new day,” the 4th District representative said in a statement.

“President Obama leads this country as the world looks to the United States to restore its treasured commitment to human rights and freedom.  Most of all, President Obama is the hope for a new generation of Americans who have experienced Washington’s recent failures and yet are willing to commit themselves to healing, believing and building America’s future.”

The congresswoman said, however, that it would take “daring, some risk and determination to protect the interests of the next generation.”

Rep. Collin Peterson
Immediately after the Inauguration ceremony, Congressman Collin Peterson headed over to the Minnesota State Society reception in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee room for food, drinks, and some Midwestern company. The 7th District representative said that Obama’s speech hit all the right points.

“For somebody of Barack Obama’s background to be able to rise to this level is amazing,” said Peterson.

The chair of the House Agriculture Committee added, however, that he was worried about the country’s expectations.

“The country’s expectations are so high right now, higher than anyone could meet,” Peterson said. “Hopefully, the country has patience, too.”

Rep. John Kline
Congressman John Kline called the day “a historic day of hope and pride for America.” In a statement, the 2nd District Republican said that he looked forward to working with the new administration “regardless of ideology or party affiliation.”

The congressman also gave a little shout-out to the members of the Minnesota National Guard who traveled to Washington to help provide safety and security to the president, his family and the people who came to watch Obama be sworn in.

“I am especially proud of the 300 men and women of the Minnesota National Guard, 1st Battalion, 194th Armor (Combined Arms Battalion),” said Kline, who serves on the Armed Services Committee.

Rep. Jim Oberstar
Congressman Jim Oberstar, who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that he was “particularly encouraged to hear [Obama] express an eagerness to rebuild our nation’s aging transportation infrastructure.”

In his speech, Obama said, “The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.”

“With a few broad strokes, President Obama laid out the challenges we face as a nation, from dealing with the recession to tackling the threat of terrorism … This is a president who will get things done and bring real change to our nation,” the 8th District representative said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Sen. Amy Klobuchar said that Obama displayed “a confidence and cheerfulness which are the sign of what an American poet [Ralph Waldo Emerson] once called ‘an open and noble temper.’ “

In a statement, the Democratic senator said, “President Obama does not shy away from the serious challenges facing us. Today, he reminded us of the unique spirit and courage that have always been America’s greatest strengths.”

Cynthia Boyd writes on education, health, social issues and other topics. She can be reached at cboyd@minnpost.com.

Cynthia Dizikes covers Minnesota’s congressional delegation and reports on issues and developments in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at cdizikes[at]minnpost[dot]com.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by George Hayduke on 01/20/2009 - 03:32 pm.

    “This is a profound day for America and for the American people — another shining milestone in our long, remarkable history as the world’s beacon of equality and justice,” Bachmann said in a statement. “We should all take pride in this landmark achievement.”

    This coming from the biggest bigot in Congress. Forget about this “new” Michele. The real Michele was the one you heard on Hardball last October.

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