Whitmer, El-Sayed to both address 2019 University of Michigan grads

    Gretchen Whitmer at her inauguration on Jan. 1, 2019 | Instagram

    Now-Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Abdul El-Sayed faced off in last year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, and now they’ll both be giving University of Michigan commencement speeches this spring.

    As is tradition for sitting governors in their first year, Whitmer will deliver the main U of M address at Michigan Stadium on May 4. Whitmer, who earned both her bachelor’s and law degrees from Michigan State University, did teach at U of M’s Gerald R. Ford School for Public Policy prior to her 2018 election.

    “What an honor — and what an incredible opportunity to congratulate these graduates who worked so hard — who are going to go off and do amazing things in our country and our state and our communities,” she said in a video posted on Twitter. “And so I will see you on May 4 and I will say, ‘Go Blue!’ — proudly.”

    Whitmer, who served in the Legislature for 14 years, is the sixth sitting governor to give the U of M commencement address in the last 40 years.

    She and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, a University of Michigan graduate, have a friendly sports rivalry, just their predecessors did. Former Gov. Rick Snyder holds three degrees from U of M and former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley earned his undergraduate degree from MSU.

    Abdul El-Sayed

    El-Sayed will speak at the May 9 University of Michigan medical school commencement. The former Detroit health department head earned his undergraduate degree from U of M. El-Sayed also holds an M.A. and PhD. from Oriel College at Oxford and an M.D. from Columbia University.

    In the Aug. 6, 2018, Democratic primary, Whitmer won 52 percent and all 83 counties. El-Sayed was second with 30 percent and Ann Arbor businessman Shri Thanedar finished last with 18 percent.

    Whitmer went on to defeat GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette in the Nov. 6, 2018, general gubernatorial election by 9 points, 53 percent to 44 percent.

    Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.


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