On Tuesday, January 30, 2018 at 9:15pm EST, President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address as the 45thpresident of the United States of America. I was able to not only witness his speech, but I was also able to witness the Democratic National Response, delivered by Joseph P. Kennedy III. With this being President Trump’s first State of the Union address, this speech was one of the most important ones, in that it will be discussed for months and years to come.
The State of the Union address began with the introduction of the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, followed by the introduction of the Vice President, Mike Pence, and finally, the President, Donald Trump. President Trump begins his speech by describing the “state of ‘our’ union” and giving a detailed explanation of what his administration has already accomplished since he has taken office. President Trump talks about the 2.4 million jobs being created since the 2016 Presidential Election, with 200,000 of those jobs being in manufacturing alone, which was something that he promised during his presidential campaigning.
President Trump then switched gears to the future of our nation. Before doing this, President Trump took the time to thank and celebrate different police officers, members of the military, and veterans. This was a tactic used to get the American citizens excited for what was to come – both in his speech and in his presidency. Trump continues the Future of Our Nation portion of his speech by expressing his policy and what more he plans to do for the nation. He includes things like a plan to appoint judges in our judicial system who will interpret the Constitution as it was written, reducing the prices of prescription medicine for citizens, and even bringing back jobs to America, beginning with a car plant already moving to Alabama. Then, things began to take a slight, expected turn in the wrong direction for some. President Trump makes a statement saying that we as a nation are, “…moving from welfare to work and from dependence to independence.” To some, this may sound appealing – it sounds like America is doing well to be able to move their citizens in the direction of independence. But to others (especially Democrats), President Trump’s statement may be interpreted as him saying that he (and the rest of the government) does not want to be held accountable for the “neediness” of some of the American citizens. The mixed responses in the room could be heard and felt through the television – one side of the room erupted with applause, while the other side of the room had the look of disgust written on their faces.
Trump tried to switched gears as easily as possible, began to move towards the end of his speech, and began to talk about the touchy, controversial topic of immigration reform. Unfortunately, the gears did not move as smoothly as he had hoped. President Trump decided to introduce the immigration topic by introducing two parents whose children had lost their lives to someone who was in the United States illegally. For the second time in less than five minutes, one side of the room erupted with applause, while the other side of the room had the look of disgust written on their faces. One good thing President Trump did do was offer a four-prong solution to immigration reform: (1) offers a path to citizenship for kids brought here illegally, (2) secures the border, (3) ends visa lottery that randomly hands out green cards so that it will become merit-based, and (4) protects nuclear family by ending chained migration/one can only bring in spouses and minor children of immediate family. Although immigration is still extremely controversial in our country, Trump did well by offering the citizens an actual solution to fixing the illegal immigration issue.
Once President Trump wrapped up his first State of the Union address, in an instant, there was a Democratic Response that followed, which was led by Joseph P. Kennedy III. The Democratic Response was also to talk about the future of our nation, but in a different way. Joseph P. Kennedy III made it his mission to counter everything that President Trump said, all while pushing two key themes throughout his 13 minute speech: optimism and being for the people. What Kennedy III did was focus on America as a “fractured country”, which, he feels, was indirectly created by our country’s current administration. Kennedy III talked about the “forgotten citizen”, in which he referred to immigrants trying to find a better life in America, he talked about the hatred and supremacy that leaders in our country possess and our current administration targeting our laws. Kennedy III wrapped up his quick, passionate speech by telling Mexican immigrants, “You are a part of our story and we will not walk away.” He talks about how topics like immigration and healthcare have created no unity between partisans and that, “…the richest, strongest nation should not have to leave anyone behind…” in which he was referring to everyone in the nation that he feels has been forgotten by the current administration.
After watching both the State of the Union address and the Democratic Response, it is clear that polarization is sweeping our nation. As Joseph Kennedy III expressed in the Democratic Response, that there is no unity between partisans, which can be proven as correct. To start, there was a Democratic Response that was created to counter everything that was stated by the Republican president in his State of the Union address, communicating to the nation that there is clear polarization within our government and politics, which can easily trickle down to our citizens. Another way to prove Joseph Kennedy III correct, is just by watching the State of the Union address on live television. At the start of the speech, it was clear that the room was divided so much, that they sat in sections with people who had the same ideology as them. When the crowd erupted with applause because of something favorable Donald Trump said, there was applauding and standing ovations that came from only the left side of the room. It was like the other side of the room came to the State of the Union address in order to show their disdain for the President and show how much they disagreed with him and his supporters.
Overall, I think it is good to have diversity and more than one point of view in politics in any nation. However in America, the two major viewpoints that we as citizens are exposed to are creating a more polarized nation. It’s either us or them; it’s either destroy or be destroyed; it’s either my policy or no policy. These two speeches show how America is moving away from compromise and closer and closer to selfishness and the “us vs. them” logic.
I agree with your closing statement that the United States is becoming increasingly polarized on both sides of the spectrum and that has been perpetuated by each side’s public figures. I think the word diversity is overwhelmingly associated with race or religion and not so much with different schools of thought. This is something I see as a big problem as the best way to learn or affirm your beliefs is to have them challenged. If no one is being challenged and just told that they are right, then there is no room for progress, just polarization. The word compromise used to be the most important word in politics and I think George Washington would say the same. But today, American politics shows little signs of compromise on major legislation which will ultimately hurt us in the end.
I agree with your argument that polarization is sweeping our country. I also believe that the democratic response was an example of polarization as you stated but a for different reason. Far too often when we listen to someone speak, we listen with the intent to respond not with the intent to learn and comprehend. Essentially, we have no regard for what others are saying as we are already formulating our response. That is exactly what Kennedy III did as his speech immediately followed that of the President. To be clear, I am not deeming Joseph P. Kennedy III the culprit of polarization but instead I am using his response to highlight the far too common problem in our great country. The source of polarization in our society is our failure to hear and listen to the opposing side. If we cannot listen to understand and comprehend, compromise will forever be an aspiration instead of our reality. Furthermore, the us v. them mentality that you speak of is the result of our lack of empathy for others that begins with our failure to listen and recognize the opposing side. We do need more diversity of thought and opinions in our society but the first step is to listen to learn as to not only formulate your own opinion but to understand the opinions of others too.