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Opinion: In Trump’s First State of the Union, He Called For Unity. Or Did He?

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At 9:05 PM on January 30, 2018, President Donald Trump rose to the podium inside of the House of Representatives chamber of Capitol Hill to deliver his inaugural State of the Union address. The speech, lasting a total of 87 minutes, could best be characterized as a grand moment of bragging rights and perhaps even a few “alternative facts.” Nonetheless, the President’s demeanor and language was the most shocking aspect of the address. He refrained from his trademark outright blunt style of speech, tone, attitude, and controversy. Or did he?

When the President entered the congressional chamber three minutes after the expected start time of the speech, the attendees, (mostly consisting of Trump’s party, the Republicans), rose to their feet and opened their mouths wide and loud in greetings of support. This same energy would follow Trump up to the podium where Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan were seated. Included in his initial remarks was the highlighting of actions taken at the start of his administration. “Very swift action our first night,” the President stated followed by, “New sense of optimism first night.” If there is one thing President Trump is known for best, it would be his large claims of success and progress. Perhaps the President did change the world on January 20, 2017 in one form or another, though the only “swift action” the Americans who helped Hillary Clinton win the popular vote remember best from that night would be his dancing with the first lady, which by the way, could have used a lot more coordination and eye contact.

Trump began his long-run of facts and fiction, starting with the success of the job market, proudly emphasizing the creation of 2.4 million jobs since taking office. Of course it would only be appropriate to reference the ever-going plummet of unemployment rates nationwide. Trump stated the unemployment rate among African-Americans has reached a 45-year low and though the President’s claim is true, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it would be wrong  to give all the credit solely to his administration. The fact of the matter is unemployment rates have experienced a steady decline for years following the house-market recession beginning in 2007.

Another major point driven by the President during his address was the tax-cut bill passed late last year. Throughout 2017 both House and Senate Republicans struggled desperately to repeal and replace Obamacare, a fight they eventually lost. And as these politicians continue in their struggle to implement other national healthcare options, they directed their attention to tax cuts, a campaign promise of Trump’s. On December 22, President Trump signed the new tax bill that, in summation, reduces tax rates across the board with temporary benefits in place for most Americans. In his address, the President also took credit for three million workers have already received reductions from the cuts, yet there are conflicting reports about that. 

Trump excitedly exclaimed, “[This is the] New American moment. There’s never been a better time to start living the American Dream.” He then referenced the national motto, “In God we trust” to which Paul Ryan could be seen mouthing, “Amen.” Surely one has to wonder just what the American Dream is now or who really earns it. While the President’s address did acknowledge world heroes and appeared to express the slightest bit of sympathy for some Americans, we can not forget the many things that continue to taint the administration and divide our nation. So when Paul Ryan credits the nation’s success to the mercy of God, let us ask ourselves what life he could possibly imagine and be grateful for? The millions of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Dreamers facing unjust deportation? Or, Obamacare-dependent patients as he supports the exploitation of both groups and many others?

But was the president civilized in his address? For a man like Donald Trump, the word “civilized” carries much weight. Growing up, our mothers teach us how to speak politely of others, respect the situations of others, and help others when we are able. Our president has unfortunately struggled with such characteristics. Yet the State of the Union speech showed that he is indeed capable of manners and proper, respectable speech (at least when the words are pre-written by a team of White House staffers and placed on a teleprompter for him to read). Understand, to reconcile with a person’s manner does not mean agreeing with ideologies or practices but acknowledging the respectful upholding of oneself. Donald Trump is the man, excuse me the President, who has mocked disabled reporters and recorded boasting about the groping of women. So for him to uphold himself without speaking a curse word or blatantly calling out a person he is not fond of is a huge step into the President’s capabilities.

Trump did take an indirect jab at former NFL quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick’s knee protest, though.

At the conclusion of his State of the Union address, Trump alluded to the very thing he perhaps disrupts most — national unity. “Let’s come together, put politics aside, and get the job done,” he stated, followed by a roaring applause mostly from GOP representatives. Like anyone, I would absolutely love to see unity in this country and equality in all aspects of life. Yet the fact of the matter is we continue to walk down the alternate path of divisiveness and hate each and every day. Trump’s first State of the Union address was presented with never-ending chains of facts (and some apparently derived from fiction) and a sense of insincerity. Yet what little light it did present for the administration was the want, hopefully more than just the need, to work with people outside Trump’s fan base  in order to “get the job done.”

Austin Anderson, 17, is a senior at Dekalb School of the Arts that hopes to gain a fair understanding of all sides of politics.

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