Less than two weeks after a thirty-five day government shutdown, President Donald Trump boldly announced to the 116thCongress, “the State of Our Union is strong.”
The United States Constitutions says that the president will “from time to time” address Congress to give them information on the State of the Union. The initial date for the address was delayed on Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi’s, suggestion; it was postponed until February 5th, after the shutdown ended. The president accepted the invitation, stating that “I look forward to it. I look forward to it. And I look forward to speaking, really, before the world. We have a lot of great things to say.”
President Trump did, indeed, have many things to say; it was the third longest State of the Union address in history. The speech spanned a wide array of topics, excluding the controversial and tumultuous shutdown. Instead, the theme was unity; the president spoke about bipartisanship and then, ironically, highly divisive issues like immigration, border security, and abortion. He also revealed the plans for his next summit with Kim Jung-un which will happen Feb. 27 and 28 in Vietnam.
The president began the address hailing bipartisanship; he stated that “decades of political stalemate” could be ended if only Congress would “choose greatness.” However, the Democratic response made by Stacey Abrams, as well as the response of millions of viewers, revealed that it will take much more to heal the divisions between parties.
A large factor in the length of the shutdown was Republican insistence that a deal be struck regarding the border wall. However, Democrats refused and argued that such discussions could be had after the shutdown was ended. There is further controversy surrounding the president’s claim that the border wall issue is “an urgent national crisis” that can only be fixed by setting aside moral differences. This impasse between parties and president continues, and will likely continue, with Democrats now in power over the house. Viewers pointed this out in something as simple as an applause; Nancy Pelosi’s sarcastic clap towards the president went viral during the address.
Another topic the president focused on was the US economy, which he states “is the envy of the world” despite recent struggles. He elaborated on the subject, claiming that “no one has benefitted more from our thriving economy than women.” His audience consisted of many Democratic women dressed in white to bring awareness to women’s rights. Many brought important guests to send a message. They included sexual assault survivors, a climate change scientist, and an illegal immigrant.
Similarly, the Democratic response given by Stacey Abrams was intended to deliver a strong message. She rebutted, “This administration chooses to cage children and tear families apart. Compassionate treatment at the border is not the same as open borders.”
She continued, “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.”
Both addresses showed hope and anticipation for the future of the recently inducted Congress, but they also revealed that the true state of the union will change, develop, and shift through mounting divisions and important issues.