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Trump’s State of the Union Celebrated Unity in a Divided Time

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By Stefan Dela Riva

In an unexpected, unity-driven celebration of the United States’ achievements, the State of the Union Address saw President Trump bring together Democrats and Republicans for the first time in his term of office. Simply put, the State of the Union Address knocked it out of the park. Let me preface this with some background. Often times we hear news commentators remark that the United States is politically divided – that we, as a people, are more polarized on matters political than any other time in our country’s history.

To say this is untrue would be to deny reality: over the course of the last few years, a gap between the left and the right has grown to the point that it has become hard to ignore, even from the viewpoint of people who would normally self-identify as apolitical. And, as the political dialogue becomes more radical and therefore more caustic from both sides, people who want to take part in it are pushed away. They lose the faith to speak up, and for a country founded in the right to speak, that notion is deadly. The State of the Union Address was a step in the opposite direction. In the right direction.

Now, I have got to say I was expecting a speech to be done in a more typical Trumpian fashion: insulting media coverage, poking fun at the Democrats, and touting the achievements made during his administration as his personal marks of merit. We didn’t see any of that, though. In fact, we didn’t see a hint of the regular “fire and brimstone” attitude Trump speeches often include.

What we did see, however, was a focus on what our government and its people – Democrat and Republican – accomplished together. President Trump highlighted these facts: the lowest black, Hispanic, Asian, and disabled unemployment rates in our history, the highest female voting participation and female Congress representation in our history, and the lowest unemployment rate in half a century. To these truths, there was thunderous applause from both sides of the aisle, something I would venture to say that Americans don’t see often enough. And to this, Trump commented with some amount of light-hearted self-humor, turning to the Democrats and saying with a laugh: “Hey, you’re not supposed to be clapping for me!”

Trump displayed a unique humility during this speech. In a celebration of the American spirit, Trump did not linger on the achievements of his administration. He celebrated the lives of exemplary persons who helped to shape our collective story. Particularly, these included three D-Day veterans, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and Holocaust and Tree of Life Shooting survivor Judah Sabbat, who Trump invited to celebrate his 81st birthday with the full chamber of Congress. Here, we witnessed once again an attribute Trump cannot quite get away from – his unorthodox fashion. During the performance, Trump chuckled, stepped back from the microphone, and swung his arms to the rhythm like a conductor. Judah, the survivor, wore a smile on his face the entire time. After waving to the crowd, he sat down humbly, blowing a kiss to the camera, perhaps thanking the American people for such a celebration of his life.

Going into the State of the Union address, Trump made it clear that he was willing to work in a bipartisan fashion for the good of the citizens of this country. After outlining the similarities between the beliefs of Democrats and Republicans, he placed an emphasis on this new mindset: “’Victory’ is not a victory for my party, but victory for the American people.” It is clear, at least in the terms of this speech, that our 45th president is piloting his administration in a new direction. With the reality of a second government shutdown out of the question and a bipartisan border security deal signed, the proof is in the pudding. Hopefully, the precedent set by this address will lay the foundation for the future of American politics: “We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the Common Good.”

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