On Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address, a speech especially anticipated after the end of the longest government shutdown in history. Claims abound over whether Trump’s purpose was to re-energize his base or speak to those in the middle by pivoting his language, however, objective polling indicates that the speech was well received by most viewers.
The speech lasted nearly two hours and covered a multitude of issues at hand. The president began by speaking of the accomplishments of his administration, most notably having to do with the positive elements of the current economy. The recent tax cuts are considered a definitive accomplishment for the president and the Republican party. After claiming that the State of our Union is strong, President Trump made one of many strong calls for unity within the nation and the two parties.
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way!” said Trump.
A number of comments were made in an attempt to unify for a number of reasons–border security being one of them. A wall on the southern border has been one of the key components to the Trump presidency, and he attempted to rationalize the need for this in his speech, citing the violent and costly consequences of turning a blind eye to illegal immigration. The issue was framed as one of morality, and President Trump urged Congress to unite for the sake of American citizens.
While many of the issues discussed could be framed as controversial, President Trump didn’t refrain from discussing bipartisan success. Perhaps one of the most powerful moments of the evening was hearing the story of Alice Johnson, a woman sent to life in prison for a nonviolent drug crime. She was one of the many people who will benefit from groundbreaking bipartisan criminal justice reform spearheaded by the president. Alice was in attendance and appeared to be moved to tears. Trump noted that when Democrats and Republicans work together, they can make great strides for the country. He also applauded the large number of women in Congress and mentioned how women have benefitted from his administration’s economic policies.
“No one has benefitted more from our thriving economy than women, who have filled 58 percent of the new jobs created in the last year. All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before — and exactly one century after the Congress passed the Constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in the Congress than ever before,” Trump said.
Another impactful part of the evening was the call to boost spending to fight childhood cancer, sighting it as a cause that “all Americans can get behind.” This was the first time that childhood cancer was ever addressed in the State of the Union and undoubtedly convinced people of all political backgrounds. First Lady Melania Trump brought Grace Eline, a 10-year-old cancer survivor whose powerful story won the heart of the crowd.
While these topics may have appealed to more moderate voters and Democrats, President Trump didn’t shy away from more controversial issues such as abortion.
The abortion issue has found itself in the news spotlight in the past few weeks, given the recent March for Life in DC, controversial pro-choice comments from Virginia governor Ralph Northam, and arguably extreme laws in being passed in New York state that expand the right to terminate a pregnancy. Thus, many were anticipating the commentary of President Trump on this issue. Some of the most assertive words in his speech were abortion-related:
“To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb. Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: all children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God,” Trump said.
These views made the president’s position clear and very likely inspired his Christian base. Having the Christian vote in 2016 proved to be helpful and he certainly wants to hold onto that by having an unwavering pro-life view.
While a number of other issues were discussed, the rhetoric of the speech concluded to be consistent with what we’ve seen from President Trump in the past few years. The continuing notion of putting “America first” permeated a multitude of his policies. While this was often seen as divisive, perhaps the unifying aspects of the speech will perpetuate unity in the years leading up to the next election.
Photo courtesy of the US Embassy and Consulate in Korea