Trump Says, “The State of Our Union is Strong”

Judah Samet, survivor of both the Holocaust and the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, and Buzz Aldrin, pilot of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, were among the many guests who gathered in the House Chamber last Tuesday to listen to President Donald Trump deliver his State of the Union address.

Also notable in the audience was the large group of female lawmakers who donned white in honor of women’s suffrage. The clothing referenced 20th-century women’s marches, in which suffragists donned the color to attract media attention. Shortly before the address, Rep. Sheila Jackson (D-Texas) tweeted, “I was honored to stand alongside some of the 106 women of the #116 Congress in #suffragette white @HouseDemWomen.”

In the first segment of his address, President Trump reviewed his administration’s progress since he took over the Oval Office in 2017. President Trump declared the lowest overall unemployment rate in fifty years, as well as the lowest ever African-American, Hispanic-American, and Asian-American unemployment rates.

President Trump also emphasized economic initiatives abroad, including the proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Trump said, “Our new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement…will replace NAFTA and deliver for American workers: bringing back our manufacturing jobs, expanding American agriculture, protecting intellectual property, and ensuring that more cars are proudly stamped with four beautiful words: made in the USA.”

Trump announced future global economic initiatives including ongoing negotiations with Chinese President Xi Jinping to promote fair trade, improve the American trade deficit, and protect American employment. President Trump also hopes to pass the U.S. Reciprocal Trade Act, which would allow the U.S. to respond to tariffs on U.S. products with an equal tariff on the offending nation’s products.

Regarding shifts to the healthcare system, President Trump celebrated the passing of the “right to try” legislation, which permits terminally ill patients to seek experimental treatments that have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. President Trump also pleaded with lawmakers to support additional healthcare initiatives, including a budget of $500 million over ten years for cancer research and a commitment to eliminate HIV within ten years.

In addition to experimental treatment access and research funding, Trump asked Congress to pass policies that would disallow late-term abortion, which Trump defined as when a child “can feel pain in the mother’s womb.” Trump said, “Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: all children – born or unborn – are made in the holy image of God.”

President Trump also reiterated his campaign promise to end illegal immigration. However, rather than the full border wall presented early in his presidency, President Trump praised the effectiveness of sections of wall in areas with high rates of illegal immigration. President Trump cited a security wall in place in San Diego as evidence of the benefits of a partial wall.

President Trump did not maintain his recent commitment to immediately pull American troops from the front lines of the conflict in Syria and throughout the Middle East. Rather, the President outlined more moderate goals, including continued negotiations, a more gradual reduction of troops in the region, and long-term counterterrorism efforts.

Trump also discussed the establishment of the First Step Act, which allows non-violent offenders more opportunities to re-enter society and lead productive, free lives. Trump said, “America is a nation that believes in redemption.”

While President Trump did not directly address the ongoing investigations into alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, he emphasized the need for bipartisan cooperation throughout the remainder of his term. President Trump said, “An economic miracle is taking place in the United States – and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.”

Stacey Abrams, a Georgia politician, delivered the Democratic response to Trump’s speech. In addition to addressing voter suppression, the reliance of many citizens on Medicaid, and the need for more affordable education, Abrams criticized Trump’s immigration policies with a call for “compassionate treatment” of individuals and families at the border. Abrams said, “We must all embrace [the fact] that from agriculture to health care to entrepreneurship, America is made stronger by the presence of immigrants, not walls.”

Abrams also discussed the recent government shutdown, which was the longest in history. Abrams said, “Making livelihoods of our federal workers a pawn for political games is a disgrace. The shutdown was a stunt, engineered by the president of the United States, one that defied every tenant of fairness and abandoned not just our people, but our values.”

Yet Abrams too called for bipartisan cooperation. She said, “America wins by fighting for our shared values against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That is who we are, and when we do so, never wavering, the state of our union will always be strong.”