Trump delivers his third State of the Union address


Evan Vucci | AP

President Donald Trump holds up a newspaper that reads “Trump acquitted” during during an event celebrating his impeachment acquittal, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, in Washington.

The polarization created by President Donald Trump was more apparent than ever as he delivered the annual State of the Union address. Instead of showing how far the country had come in the year between his last address and this one, it only served to show just how divided the nation is. Before the speech even began in earnest, the tension between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was palpable, as Trump refused to shake her hand as he stepped onto the dais. 

Every president since the writing of the Constitution has delivered these addresses. Ben Epstein, political science professor at DePaul University, said that delivering the State of the Union address is a presidential duty that has been mandated by the Constitution. 

“It’s said in the Constitution that there will be a regular address to Congress by the president checking in, essentially,” Esptein said.  “Early on, they were not necessarily big speeches and later they became formal addresses, and in the televised era, they became often the most watched political event in a non-election year. It’s definitely the one time when all eyes are on the president and they’re technically speaking to congress but they’re really speaking to the American people.”

All eyes were on President Trump as he took to the podium to address Congress. He was greeted by rounds of applause from legislators as he walked towards the stage. After introducing Speaker Pelosi, Vice President Mike Pence and the First Lady Melania Trump, the president  began his speech.

 “I am thrilled to report that our economy is the best it has ever been,” Trump said. “Our military is completely rebuilt, with its power unmatched anywhere in the world, and it is not even close. Our borders are secure, our families are flourishing, our values are renewed, our pride is restored.” 

This was one of the first statements that raised questions, especially pertaining to his claims about the military. 

According to Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the New York Times, Trump’s statement is a bit exaggerated. Neff reported that while the military is implementing new vehicles into the Air Force and Navy, armed forces still use vehicles and equipment that were in use during the Cold War, and these are in almost constant need of repairs and updates.

After his opening statement, Trump went on to cover different aspects of the country that had apparently improved over the years since  he took office. 

His first stop was oil production, the economy and the job market. “Thanks to our bold regulatory reduction campaign, the United States has become the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world, by far,” Trump said. 

Trump has had problems with fact-checking before and it appears that this was the case again here. According to both CNN and Politico, the United States became the number one producer of oil in the world under the Obama administration, not the Trump administration. 

The job market and decrease in unemployment then became the focus of Trump’s speech. 

“We are advancing with unbridled optimism and lifting our citizens of every race, color, religion and creed very high,” Trump said. “Since my election, we have created 7 million new jobs, 5 million more than government experts projected during the previous administration.” 

According to CNN, Trump wasn’t bluffing with those numbers. In the period between Trump’s election in 2016 and December 2019, there have been 7.3 million jobs created in the U.S. economy. “A normal president with these economic statistics should walk to reelection victory,” Epstein said. “He very well might be reelected, but it’s not going to be easy given all these other things that are going on around him.”

Trump also noted that unemployment was also at an all-time low under his administration. The unemployment rate sits right now at 3.4 percent, the lowest it has been in 50 years. The last time unemployment has been around this low was the late 1960s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

After wrapping up comments on the administration’s economic accomplishments, Trump took a moment to recognize a few distinguished guests in the crowd, including Venezuelan President Juan Guaido, the last surviving Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee and his grandson, Janiyah Davis and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, whom Trump honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Following a brief intermission, Trump then turned his focus to healthcare. 

“We will protect your Medicare and your Social Security. Always,” he said. “The American patient should never be blindsided by medical bills. That is why I signed an executive order requiring price transparency.” 

The executive order Trump referenced was passed last June and forces hospitals to disclose their rates with insurers. This means that patients will be able to know how much of their hospital bills their insurance providers will cover, rather than being surprised  by them later. Trump also took a shot at many democratic candidates’ support for Medicare for All plan. “To those watching at home tonight, I want you to know: We will never let socialism destroy American health care,” Trump said. . 

“132 lawmakers in this room have endorsed legislation to impose a socialist takeover of our healthcare system, wiping out the health insurance plans of 180 million very happy Americans,” said Trump. 

Finally, Trump covered some key points including immigration, gun control and the war in the Middle East. 

“The United States of America should be a sanctuary for law-abiding Americans, not criminal aliens,” Trump said. “We are building the world’s prosperous and inclusive society.” 

“Any casual observer would have a hard time buying that his administration is focused on inclusion,” Epstein said. 

The president then assured Americans that he would not interfere with their Second Amendment rights and that he would keep the armed forces strong to protect our citizens at home and abroad.

 “The American age, the American epic, the American adventure has only just begun,” Trump said. “Our spirit is still young. The sun is still rising. God’s grace is still shining. My fellow Americans, the best is yet to come.”

Though the speech was over, the impact of this night wasn’t. Right behind Trump, Pelosi tore up her copy of his speech. Epstein said that this action will have lasting significance. 

 “I think that picture of her tearing up that speech will be in our textbooks for years to come,” Epstein said. “You want to know what the feeling of the country was? That indicates the feeling of the country and the feeling of politics in the country right now more than any words he spoke.” 

Whether Pelosi did the right thing or not by ripping up her copy of the speech, it has become a talking point for American citizens about the state of politics.

Brett Vander Wielen, a graphic design student at DePaul, said he had mixed feelings about Pelosi’s actions. 

“Do I think she should have done it?” said Vander Wielen. “No. But I’m happy that she did.” 

Fatima Zaidi, a journalism student, said she believes that Pelosi was justified for ripping up the speech. 

“Professionalism lacks in all aspects of politics today, and people are honestly getting tired of correcting them,” Zaidi said. “Acting like Pelosi did, that’s the final straw when your pleas continuously fall on deaf ears.”