I’m inclined to agree with my father’s assessment of the president of the United States, which is to say that I am cautiously optimistic. I rejected both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as presidential candidates, but since it befell us to choose between them, I’m glad that Trump was elected instead of Clinton. Better anyone than Clinton or Trump. But better Trump than Clinton.
However, I was never part of the derisively named “never Trump” movement. As much as I disliked both Trump and Clinton, I loathed the “never Trump” label because it was aimed at silencing many people who were justifiably skeptical. As Trump rose to power, I couldn’t help but think that he was the definition of a demagogue. Nevertheless, I believe that Trump’s first State of the Union address was, for the most part, a good one.
President Donald J. Trump began his first State of the Union Address by claiming to speak for the American people. He promised to address their concerns, their hopes, and their dreams. Although cautious optimism better describes my posture toward the current arrangements in our nation’s capital, according to President Trump, a “new tide of optimism” has been “sweeping across our land.” Trump described his clever catch phrase “make America great again” as a “clear vision” and a “righteous mission.” Whatever it is, it is effective presidential rhetoric, particularly in an era of Twitter post length attention spans.
Trump reminded us that Americans have dealt with many natural (hurricanes, fires, etc.) and unnatural (the Las Vegas shooting) disasters since he was elected. Trump is not responsible for these disasters, nor is he entirely responsible for the general reactions to these disasters, but the positive way in which Americans have dealt with these problems certainly contributes to a sense of the nation’s resilience.
The obligatory recognition of legitimate heroes, for whose heroism it makes sense to be grateful, was an effective way to focus on American greatness. American heroes are praiseworthy, but I was particularly impressed by the courage of Sung-Ho, a man whom Trump honored for his daring escape from North Korea on crutches. The speech is worth watching for that reason alone.
“The state of our union is strong,” Trump declared, “because our people are strong.” Whether or not such a statement represents presidential or populist rhetoric, it is still true. Here are a few of the highlights that Trump claimed as results of his first year in office:
- 2.4 million new jobs
- 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing
- rising wages
- unemployment claims have hit a 45 year low
- African American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded
- Hispanic American unemployment has reached the lowest levels in American history
- small business confidence is at an all time high
- the stock market has smashed one record after another
- 401K, retirement pension, and college savings accounts have gone through the roof
- the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history have been enacted
- the child tax credit has been doubled
- more Americans will have more take home pay
- a cruel tax was eliminated, the individual mandate has been repealed
- the business tax rate has been slashed
- small businesses have also received a massive tax cut
- 3 million workers have received tax cut benefits
- Apple and Exxon Mobile are doing well
Trump reaffirmed the reality of the American dream. “Together, we can achieve absolutely anything,” he declared. He championed the age old American values of faith and family. “In God we trust.” He also pledged our “total unwavering support” for the police, the military, and our veterans, and he made sure to emphasize the importance of respect for the American flag.
One of Trump’s declared objectives has been to restore bonds of trust between the American people and the American government. This is a tall order that includes the appointment of Supreme Court judges who will interpret the U.S. Constitution as it is written, the defense of the second amendment, and especially the defense of religious liberty.
More good news: the Trump administration has eliminated more regulations than any other administration in American history. Trump also proclaimed that in the last year the FDA has approved more drugs and medical devices than ever before in American history. To many people this sounds like good news. In my opinion, it is terrible news. One of Trump’s greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. Somehow, it doesn’t seem to me that what America needs is more drugs. (Later in his speech Trump noted that over 64,000 Americans died last year due to drug overdose).
After honoring a man who fought against illegal immigrant gang members, Trump addressed the controversial topic of immigration. He introduced an immigration reform package, a bipartisan “four point plan.” The first point or “pillar” of the plan is to offer a path toward citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents at a young age. The path towards citizenship applies to those who meet certain work and education requirements and who show good moral character over a twelve year period. The second pillar of the plan fully secures the border, which includes building a “great wall” on the southern border, and hiring more defense workers. The third pillar ends the visa lottery, which randomly hands out visas to people without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of Americans. The fourth pillar aims to protect the nuclear family by ending chain migration, limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children. The justifications for the four point plan include the vitality of the economy, the future of the country, and the problem of terrorism. The main justification for the plan, however, is to put America first. (My stance on immigration corresponds best with the one set forward by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
Finally, Trump addressed issues related to foreign policy, and relationships with nations such as China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea. “Weakness is the surest path to conflict,” Trump declared. The solution? Unmatched power. Trump promised to promote a foreign policy of unmatched power that will modernize and rebuild the nuclear arsenal in order to deter acts of aggression, combat terrorism, and maintain operations at the detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay. Trump also reminded his audience that he has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
According to Donald Trump, the American people are making America great again. He is right about one thing. America is great. I am cautiously optimistic about the rest.