“The state of our union is strong because our people are strong,” President Donald Trump said Tuesday at the start of his very first State of the Union address.
During the speech, Trump touched on the many things his administration has achieved in its first year, but also looked to the future and recognized that there is still much to do.
Though he delivered the speech before a joint session of Congress at the Capitol Building, Trump was talking directly to the millions of people watching at home when he touted one of his major themes — a “new American moment.”
Flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan, the president started by repeating his oft-used campaign slogan. But with the campaign long over, he emphasized unity, noting that his administration is “making America great again for all Americans.”
Trump continued to highlight unity, explaining that “no people on earth are as fearless” as Americans.
“Together,” he stressed that his administration is building a “safe, strong and proud America.”
A big part of this, Trump indicated, can be seen in his administration’s economic achievements.
During his address to Congress in February 2017, Trump promised to enact historic tax reform. With the help of GOP leaders in the House and Senate, he was successful.
“Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses,” Trump said Tuesday.
“Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses — many of them thousands of dollars per worker,” he added.
Trump used the success of the tax reform effort to explain that the current day and age represents a new “moment” in American history.
“This is our new American moment,” Trump said. “There has never been a better time to start living the American dream.”
“This is your time,” he added, specifically speaking those watching at home. “If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America,” then anything is possible, he stated.
In addition to tax reform, Trump boasted of the record highs the stock market has seen in his first year in office, as well as record-low unemployment figures — including among African-Americans and Hispanics.
Wages are rising, small business confidence is at “all-time high” and Obamacare’s controversial individual mandate is gone, Trump said.
Throughout his speech, the president continued to promote a theme of unity.
“Americans,” he said, “love their country. And they deserve a government that shows them the same love and loyalty in return.”
However, he could not help but make a reference to a major controversy, alluding to the NFL’s national anthem debate, which erupted after many players refused to stand for the anthem.
Drawing attention to the importance of the American flag and the respect that it deserves, Trump underlined the significance of standing for the national anthem.
“We put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of allegiance and we proudly stand for the national anthem,” he said, garnering raucous applause from many of the assembled lawmakers.
Trump went on to highlight the ways his administration has worked to make Americans trust their government again.
The president cited several of his administration’s achievements as evidence that he is devoted to ensuring the future is bright for the U.S.
“We have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history,” he said, in addition to ending the wars on “American energy” and “beautiful, clean coal.”
“America has also finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs and our nation’s wealth,” Trump stated.
Trump then called on both parties in Congress to approve his infrastructure plan in order to “give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve.”
“America is a nation of builders,” he said. “We built the Empire State Building in just one year – isn’t it a disgrace that it can now take ten years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?”
“Together, we can reclaim our great building heritage,” he said, painting a picture of a nation with “gleaming new roads” and highways — all of it built by Americans.
Infrastructure isn’t the only issue that needs bipartisan attention, Trump suggested.
With the fates of “Dreamers” — the illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and were protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — still up in the air, the president indicated that he is willing to work with lawmakers to find a solution.
“Tonight I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens, of every background, color, and creed,” he said.
Though Trump expressed a willingness to work with Democrats on DACA, he also talked about the dangers of illegal immigration, specifically citing murders carried out by members of gangs like MS-13.
When Trump asked family members of people who have been murdered by gang members to stand, lawmakers gave them a standing ovation.
Then, the president explained how he is working to close loopholes in the immigration system so that such tragedies stop occurring.
“Americans,” he said, “are dreamers too.”
Trump also laid out in detail his immigration reform plan. It’s a four-pillar plan that he admitted won’t please both sides, but it’s one that’s needed anyway.
The first pillar is a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 1.8 million illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Under Trump’s plan, these immigrants can become U.S. citizens over a period of 12 years.
The second pillar — border security — involves “building a great wall on the southern border,” Trump said, in addition to hiring more agents to beef up security.
As the third pillar, Trump called for an end to the visa lottery system, which he said randomly hands out green cards to immigrants. Instead, he wants a merit-based program that prioritizes skilled immigrants who will contribute to American society.
Finally, Trump said it is necessary to end chain migration. Though his point was met with scattered boos from Democrats in the crowd, Trump said such a move is “vital for the security and future of America.”
This immigration plan, Trump said, represents him following through on his “iron-clad pledge to put America first.”
The president discussed other domestic issues as well, including his administration’s efforts to improve the Veterans’ Affairs health care system and battle the opioid crisis.
After focusing on the domestic front, Trump turned to foreign policy, celebrating the fact that the Islamic State group has been almost completely defeated.
Still, he said there is work to be done.
“We will continue our fight until ISIS is defeated,” he said.
With the fight against terror organizations like al-Qaida and the Islamic State group still ongoing, Trump said that just before entering the Capitol to give his speech, he signed an executive order directing Defense Secretary James Mattis to ensure that the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention center stays open.
The Middle East wasn’t the only region of the world Trump talked about.
The president criticized North Korea’s “reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles,” something he warned could “threaten our homeland.”
Unlike previous administrations, Trump indicated that he plans to stand up to North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un.
“Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation,” he said. “I will not repeat the mistakes of the past administrations that got us into this dangerous position.”
Trump concluded by recounting how the fight for freedom in America started centuries ago. It began with the American Revolution and has continued throughout the years, with soldiers sacrificing their blood to make sure that the U.S. stays free.
“And freedom stands tall over one more monument: this one. This Capitol,” Trump said. “This living monument to the American people,” he added, sparking chants of “USA!” from the crowd. (For more from the author of “President Donald Trump Gives First State of the Union Address” please click HERE)