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President Trump’s First State of the Union Address

The Trump campaign was packaged as a rebirth of populist ideals; putting ordinary Americans first and making our country “great again.” No one can deny that Trump’s State of The Union Address put America on the front lines. In fact, only domestic policy was discussed for the first hour of the speech. These topics included: job growth, decreased regulations, a $1.5 trillion tax cut, the stock market, rising wages, the Supreme Court, and immigration reforms.  Twenty minutes were allocated for the rest of the world.

The speech itself reached one hour and twenty minutes. This was the third longest State of the Union address in the past fifty years; with the top two delivered by Bill Clinton, according to the NY Times. Despite this, an overwhelming majority of the speech was an ode to accomplishments of the past year. Nearly an hour passed before the president made a proposal regarding infrastructure followed by another push for immigration reform. The infrastructure proposal requested $1.5 trillion dollars to “give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve.” He cited his immigration plan as a “down-the-middle compromise” where “nobody gets everything they want.”  

The president sought bipartisanship throughout his speech, asking congress to “seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve.” Democrats spent much of the speech refraining from applause, brooding, and openly dejecting Trump’s idea to limit the number of family members that immigrants can bring into the U.S. Although Trump’s remarks regarding unity seemed hopeful; he went back to slandering the left on Twitter by Thursday morning, stating they only “Resist, Blame, Complain and Obstruct – and do nothing.”

The speech was built around heroes, using stories of ordinary people who had overcome drastic challenges. These heroes included: an Army staff sergeant who won the bronze star serving in Syria, a police officer who adopted the child of a heroin-addict, various small business owners and employees, and a twelve year old boy who placed flags on the graves of veterans. Trump connected these heroes to America by stating that “the state of our union is strong because our people are strong.”

Other guests were the parents of Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who died after being detained for seventeen months in North Korea. Trump also praised the escape of Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean defector who lost his leg. The president continued by congratulating the military on taking back nearly all ISIS territory, making progress on his promise to extinguish the group “from the face of the Earth.” Mr. Trump also promoted his decision to move the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem before announcing an executive order to keep the Guantanamo Bay detention facility operational. However, Trump failed to acknowledge any of the aspects tainting his public image, including the Russian investigation, sexual misconduct allegations, and low approval ratings.

As with politics, much of the content of the speech has been debated. Many news outlets such as the Washington Post, CNN, and The New York Times have completed fact checks on both Trump’s speech and Democratic responses. For example, Trump’s statement; “Just as I promised the American people from this podium eleven months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reform in American history,” is false. According to Treasury Department data, Trump’s tax cut is the eighth largest while the New York Times places it in twelfth.

Likewise, Democratic responses to Trump’s State of The Union have been misleading. Joseph Kennedy III stated that “top C.E.O.s making three-hundred times the average worker is not right” while he scorned the Trump Administration Tuesday night. Mr. Kennedy is referencing  a 2014 study from the Economic Policy Institute. This study found that salaries for chief executives at the top three-hundred and fifty American firms were about three-hundred times more than their employees. However, that sample represents a small portion of all American businesses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, chief executives made an average salary of $194,000 in 2016, about four times what the average worker made.

A transcript of President Trump’s State of the Union address can be read here.

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