“This is our new American moment,” Trump declared to lawmakers gathered at the Capitol for his first State of the Union address. “There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream. So to every citizen watching at home tonight — no matter where you have been, or where you’ve come from, this is your time. If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve absolutely anything.”
The president pointed to tax cuts passed at the close of last year, along with planned pushes for infrastructure and immigration reform and continued deregulation efforts by the administration.
Trump asked members of both parties “to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable and modern infrastructure our economy needs,” while coalescing around an immigration plan that protects Americans “of every background, color and creed.”
Within minutes of calling on lawmakers to “set aside our differences” and “summon the unity we need to deliver for the people,” Trump served up red meat for his conservative base, applauding the elimination of the “disastrous Obamacare” individual mandate and touting the influx of conservative justices to the federal courts. That brought Republicans on their feet — and left Democrats in their chairs.
Trump dedicated several minutes of his remarks to one of Washington’s largest looming and long-standing legislative fights: Immigration reform. The president touted his administration’s recently released proposal that makes significant concessions on citizenship for “Dreamers,” people brought to the United States illegally as children, while also seeking $25 billion for Trump’s long-promised border wall.
But Trump didn’t miss an opportunity to link his “America First” slogan with his hardline immigration stance. While Democrats like Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., said “Oh, come on!” in reaction to Trump’s proposals, and others audibly groaned at his pledge to end so-called “chain migration,” the president declared to Republican applause that “Americans are dreamers, too.”
“The United States is a compassionate nation,” Trump said. “We are proud that we do more than any other country anywhere in the world to help the needy, the struggling, and the underprivileged all over the world. But as President of the United States, my highest loyalty, my greatest compassion, my constant concern is for America’s children, America’s struggling workers, and America’s forgotten communities.”
In his remarks, Trump pushed for a “merit-based” program. During his campaign, Trump frequently pointed to stories of families who lost loved ones to violence committed by undocumented immigrants as justification for his hard-line positions on immigration — an emotional appeal that he reprised Tuesday evening by honoring two families who had lost children to gang violence.
The president also spoke about gains made in the U.S. battle against ISIS, while conceding there remains “much more work to be done” to win that fight.
“We will continue our fight until ISIS is defeated,” Trump said, allowing that the fight against terrorism is not done.
As part of that effort, Trump announced that he had just signed a new executive order to keep open the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay — making good on a campaign promise to “load it up with some bad dudes” while continuing his well-established focus on reversing the policies of his predecessor, Barack Obama.
The president arrived at the Capitol with his chief of staff, John Kelly, while First Lady Melania Trump went ahead with invited guests to the remarks. Left to watch the evening’s proceedings away from the Capitol is the “designated survivor”: Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Trump spent the hours before his address practicing the speech and also spoke about his desire for “unity” in the United States during a traditional off-the-record lunch Tuesday with network correspondents at the White House. “Unity is really what I’m striving for, to bring the country together,” he said at the lunch. (Courtesy NBC News)