On Tuesday, Feb. 28th, President Donald Trump gave his first address to a joint session of congress. Trump’s speech covered topics including condemning hatred and racism, a military build-up, immigration reform, tax reform, and rebuilding infrastructure. The speech has been well received according to a CNN/ORC poll that shows that 7 in 10 people have become more optimistic after listening to the President. However, the democratic party leaders have been highly critical of the speech, even though many democratic political pundits felt the speech presented an opportunity for common ground. On the other side of the aisle, many Republican lawmakers say that speech transformed Trump into the President they believed he could be.
The president was introduced at the joint session by the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives with the iconic phrase “Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States.” As the president entered the chamber, the audience began to applaud him as he made his way to the podium. When the president reached the podium, he thanked the members of Congress and other important officials present. He then transitioned into a discussion on black history month, civil rights, and the rise of anti-Semitic thought in the country. The president was quick to condemn all form of racism by saying that “…we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”
Trump continued by alluding to President Kennedy, remarking that the torch has been passed to a new generation. Trump called for unity to help show the world that Amerca is a strong, proud, and free nation. He then looked to the future and where he see the country in 9 years, the 250th birthday of the nation. Trump then took a more pessimistic turn noting the mistakes of the past decades. He mentioned the decline of the middle class, the decline of the inner cities, the economy, infrastructure, and more.
Trump mentioned all of the promises he kept since taking office. This includes economic progress, like the committed investment of many large corporations, regulation reductions, a reduction in government spending and government hiring, and much more. He has also kept his promise on “draining the swamp” by placing a 5-year ban on lobbying of former executive branch officials and a lifetime ban on lobbying on behalf of foreign governments. The president continued to list his many campaign promises and his action on them.
Under the President’s order, the Department of Justice was tasked with reducing violent crime and is working to dismantle drug cartels. Along with this dismantle, he called for action to help treat drugs addicts. A major part of the dismantling of cartels is the construction of his southern border wall, his largest campaign promise. The President believes that this will help to make communities safer and more economically prosperous.
The president then shifted to the topic of terrorism. Trump claimed that the majority of convicted terrorists have come from outside of the country. He cited the major terror attacks across the world, particularly in France and Germany. Trump has called for a comprehensive strategy to defeat ISIS and their ideology. This defeat includes taking action against state sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran.
Trump shifted back to the problems that the country is facing, specifically economic problems. Trump discussed the slow economic growth of the country, the low labor force levels, and the loss of manufacturing jobs due to trade deals. This led to Trump presenting his ideas on how to improve economic conditions. A major part of this plan is to cut taxes on businesses and to renegotiate trade deals. Trump cited Harley Davidson as proof of the need for this change. Trump also cited President Lincoln’s idea that “abandonment of the protective policy by the American Government [will] produce want and ruin among our people.”
Immigration policy once again took hold, specifically legal immigration into the country. Trump called the system outdated and inefficient. He stated the financial burden that many low-income immigrants can have on the economy. This led to a call for a merit-based immigration system into the United States. He believes that this will could be a bi-partisan issue where our nation’s lawmakers can come together once again.
The President then discussed his infrastructure plans. In order to achieve his one trillion dollar spending goal on infrastructure, he is calling for funding from both the private and public sectors. Trump then took a swipe at past administrations for their spending in the middle east instead of the United States.
Trump called for the immediate repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. He is asking congress to keep the benefits that the law provides, but find a cheaper way to do it. As evidence for the need of a repeal, Trump pointed to the states of Arizona and Kentucky, in which the law is imploding. As part of this health care improvement, Trump called on congress to allow the purchase of medications from Canada.
Trump then moved to the issue of education calling it “the civil rights issue of our time.” Trump believes that school choice will help to reduce future crime and poverty. This transitioned Trump into the issue of violent crime. To achieve the goal of safe and prosperous communities, the President wants to expand community ties with law enforcement. This includes the formation of VOICE – Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement- which will specifically service those who have been affected by crimes of illegal immigrants.
Finally, Trump touched upon military issues. He will send a budget to congress that includes increased military spending. This spending will support both current military activities, and funding for veterans affairs. Trump acknowledged Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owen’s death in a recent mission in Yemen, in which he helped to recover “large amounts of vital intelligence.” This evolved into Trump’s foreign policy stance and support for NATO. Trump continued to use this to outline his foreign policy, which appears to be non-interventionist. The president will look to build relationships with all nations, including old enemies, likely an allusion to Russia.
In closing, Trump went through the great strides that the United States has made since its inception. He ended the speech by asking for the people throughout the nation to believe in a better future for the United States.
Trump’s speech is considered to have been well received by the public, and it will likely cause a bump in the approval polls. Prior to the speech, Trump’s poll numbers were hovering around 44%. The democratic response to Trump’s speech was delivered by former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear. The governor slammed Trump on almost every issue raised during the speech, particularly on health care.