What Happened During the State of the Union

Every year the president addresses Congress, Washington and the American people with a speech concerning what the state of our union is. Essentially, what the president does is reflect on the progress made in the last year, and discuss plans for the upcoming year. It’s long and late at night, it can be a nuisance to watch if you don’t have cable or live TV streaming, and kind of confusing even if you did watch the speech. Here’s the basic rundown of what happened, and what it all means.

 

As you can see in the picture above- there’s a sea of women wearing white. Why is that? Congresswomen wore white last night in honor of the suffragettes and in solidarity with the women of today and the rights they are still fighting for. The democratic women reached across the aisle and invited everyone to wear white in solidarity with them, and select male congressmen could be seen with white ribbons on their lapels.

 

Trump began with an optimistic view of a united America. He said he was there to promote not a Democrat or Republican agenda, but the agenda of the “American people.” Trump stated that the ideal for his America and his government is nonpartisan. He then went on to tout a bunch of conservative victories so far in his administration like tax cuts, repeal of Affordable Care Act mandates and so on. Trump then began to sing praises of our economic boom, and state that the threats to the “economic miracle” in America are “foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.” Trump says that “now is the time for bipartisan actions,” the first of which was a targeted remark at the Mueller Russia investigations- the only time said investigations were mentioned during the speech. But I digress.Trump then went on to discuss several important anniversaries coming up this year, that of D Day during World War 2 and the moon landing; Trump introduced and honored his guests Private First Class Joseph Reilly, Staff Sergeant Irving Locker, and Sergeant Herman Zeitchik, World War 2 veterans, and Buzz Aldrin of the Apollo moon landing.

 

The president then spoke more about ending the deep division in America. He reported on the aforementioned economic boom that we are currently experiencing, and particularly focused on the unemployment rates dropping not only in general, but also specifically for minorities. Trumps said that “the state of our union is strong.” He reported on several bipartisan legislations that we achieved over the course of the year, addressing the opioid crisis, farm bills, treatment of veterans etc.

Next, President Trump discussed the criminal justice reform pushed by his administration. He told the emotional story of Alice Johnson, released in June 2018, the case brought to him and championed by Kim Kardashian. Trump also introduced Matthew Charles, the first person released under his First Step Act to help reintegrate people released from federal prison.

The next portion of the evening moved toward the highly anticipated topic of immigration, the main fixture of the recent government shutdown. Breezing past the severity of said shutdown, Trump went on to perform familiar rhetoric concerning the topic of immigration in America. He emphasized the perceived safety concerns of our borders as they are, and pushed for his wall funding. Spouting statistics, the same ones he’s been throwing out since the 2016 campaign, and the same ones that have been fact checked a couple of times. Sweeping statements such as  “illegal border crossings are a national crisis” when illegal border crossings are, and have been, steadily declining; or the apparent safety concerns that once existed in El Paso, which has consistently been a relatively safe city before and after the border protection put up (crime may be declining, but that’s not unique to El Paso- it’s declining everywhere). Despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of illegal drugs come in through ports, like the bananas in trucks used by El Chapo to smuggle cocaine into the US as revealed in the recent trial. This type of language is commonly used by Trump, he’s just always going to say it.

 

He emphasized the importance and value of legal immigration, contradictory to policy and past speeches. Trump introduced a hero in ICE and the work he had done and progress he had made in ending international crime. In terms of his direct plan, Trump announced that “it includes humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry. In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall -- but the proper wall never got built. I'll get it built.” What remained unsaid, however, is whether or not Trump will call a state of emergency to get the funds for his “smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier,” should Congress reject the wall funding. A highly controversial option, one that could potentially split the Republican vote in Senate and divide the party’s majority. Congress has roughly one week left, within the confines of the agreement made to end the shutdown several weeks ago, to establish a deal concerning the border budget.

 

The speech then transitioned to applaud the fact that there are currently not only more women in the workforce, but also more women in Congress than ever before. Trump paused to applaud the congresswomen, but also to allow their standing ovation for themselves in a happy and truly bipartisan moment in the evening. He announced that beginning this Thursday, he will roll out the  “first ever Government-wide initiative focused on economic empowerment for women in developing countries.”

 

Look I’m not gonna front with you. I’m not going to pretend to understand the next portion of the evening more than I did, and honestly this piece is running a little long regardless. Trade, economics and foreign policy is not where I excel. The speech was mainly focused around China and “the Reciprocal Trade Act” in terms of relations with other nations. Trump spoke about building up crumbling infrastructure in the country, and next moved on to the topic of healthcare.

Trump stated that his priorities are lowering the price of healthcare and prescription drugs, defeating AIDS, and funding childhood cancer research. Before announcing his proposal of $500 million to fund childhood cancer research over the next 10 years, Trump told the story of his inspiring and adorable guest, cancer survivor Grace Eline. President Trump announced his plans for nationwide paid family leave, and shamed laws recently passed concerning late pregnancy abortions.

On the topic of national security, the president claimed unfair treatment by NATO, announced new missiles and that we are pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Trump said that we will try to negotiate something else, otherwise “we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far.” Trump also announced his plans for achieving peace with North Korea and announced announced a second meeting with Kim Jong-Un at the end of month (on Feb 27th & 28th) in Vietnam. Trump also addressed “welcoming home” our soldiers, by pulling troops from Syria and negotiating with Afghanistan.

 

Trump ended his speech with the same notes of a unified America. He made mention of the incredible issue of anti-semitism in American and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. He introduced two guests, Judah Semet, a survivor of Pittsburgh shooting and a Holocaust survivor (the audience sang Happy Birthday to Judah and it was very cute), as well as his guest Joshua Kaufman, a Holocaust survivor of the Dachau concentration camp. Trump addressed the D-Day veterans in honor of the upcoming anniversary this year.

 

Briefly I’m just going to address Stacey Abrams’s speech then I promise we’re done. Abrams was given the task of giving the democratic rebuttal- a generally difficult and not forgiving task. The gubernatorial candidate was the first African American woman to give the State of the Union response, and delivered an emotionally gripping response. Abrams touched on the more emotional and sensitive topics important to the current political climate and American people that President Trump glossed over, bookended with emotional and personal stories of her family. Abrams conveyed the importance of relying on each other, “calling racism what it is, wrong,” and addressed the recent shutdown. Abrams called it a stunt by the president, and sympathized with the affected workers who were “abandoned.” She also discussed the topic of  immigration. She called out the president‘s rhetoric concerning immigration, arguing that compassionate borders are not necessarily open borders, and calls on actions of Reagan and Obama. Abrams stated that "we know bipartisanship could craft a 21st century immigration plan, but this administration chooses to cage children and tear families apart." Abrams also addressed the personal issue to her, the topic of voter fraud. Abrams said that she doesn’t want the president to fail, but she does want the truth.

 

So that’s it! That is what you missed on glee an important part of our government and American history.