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'Choosing Greatness': President Trump's State of the Union Address

02-05-2019
President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, as Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, watch, on Feb. 5. (AP Photo)

After two years of bitter partisanship between Republicans and Democrats, President Donald Trump called for both unity and bipartisanship in his second State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress and the nation Tuesday night. 

Standing at the speaker's rostrum in the US House of Representatives with Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sitting directly behind him, the president said Americans hoped "we would govern as not two parties but as one nation."

"The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican Agenda or a Democrat Agenda. It is the agenda of the American People,"  he said.

ABOVE: Watch CBN News Channel Coverage of President Trump's State of the Union Address

He also challenged all 535 lawmakers in the audience to find common ground and work together. "Victory is not working for our party," Trump said. "Victory is working for our country."

The 45th president took the time to introduce three American D-Day heroes and also introduced astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Trump also explained the strides the country has made in the past and what lies ahead as the nation proudly steps forward into the future. 

"In the 20th century, America saved freedom, transformed science, and redefined the middle-class standard of living for the entire world to see.  Now, we must step boldly and bravely into the next chapter of this great American adventure, and we must create a new standard of living for the 21st century.  An amazing quality of life for all of our citizens is within our reach," Trump said. 

The president asked lawmakers to make the difficult choice to work together. 

"Together, we can break decades of political stalemate.  We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America's future.  The decision is ours to make," he said. "We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction," Trump added. "Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness."

Turning to the booming US economy, the president highlighted the lowest unemployment rate in half a century as well as an all-time low employment rate for people with disabilities. "Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades, and growing for blue collar workers, who I promised to fight for, faster than anyone else. Nearly 5 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps," he noted. "More people are working now than at any time in our history –- 157 million."  

Trump also spoke of the strides American oil and gas companies are making. "We have unleashed a revolution in American energy -- the United States is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas in the world.  And now, for the first time in 65 years, we are a net exporter of energy," he said. 

The president asked for bipartisan action and reminded lawmakers they can still do it. 

"In the last Congress, both parties came together to pass unprecedented legislation to confront the opioid crisis, a sweeping new Farm Bill, historic VA reforms, and after four decades of rejection, we passed VA Accountability so we can finally terminate those who mistreat our wonderful veterans," Trump said. 

Pointing to the most recent bipartisan success, Trump mentioned the criminal justice reform that Congress passed at the end of 2018 and told the story of Alice Johnson and Matthew Charles, whose stories contributed to the First Step Act. 

"This legislation reformed sentencing laws that have wrongly and disproportionately harmed the African-American community.  The First Step Act gives non-violent offenders the chance to re-enter society as productive, law-abiding citizens. Now, States across the country are following our lead.  America is a Nation that believes in redemption," the president said. 

The president also addressed illegal immigration as a "moral issue."

"The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well being of all Americans.  We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens.  This includes our obligation to the millions of immigrants living here today, who followed the rules and respected our laws.  Legal immigrants enrich our Nation and strengthen our society in countless ways. I want people to come into our country, but they have to come in legally," Trump explained. 

Trump addressed how drugs come in through America's southern border and countless Americans are killed by criminal illegal aliens. "Not one more American life should be lost because our Nation failed to control its very dangerous border," he said.

The president also made his pitch for a "proper wall that never got built."

"I will get it built," he said. "This is a smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier -- not just a simple concrete wall.  It will be deployed in the areas identified by border agents as having the greatest need, and as these agents will tell you, where walls go up, illegal crossings go way down." 

"Simply put, walls work and walls save lives," he added. 

Looking for some common ground to highlight, Trump turned to the issue of equality for women, pointing out that "no one has benefitted more from our thriving economy than women, who have filled 58 percent of the new jobs created in the last year. "

"All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before -- and exactly one century after the Congress passed the Constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in the Congress than ever before," Trump said to resounding applause and cheers of 'USA'...'USA'...'USA' from the audience, including applause from his Democrat opponents.

Trump also spoke of the new trade deal with China and the need to protect American jobs. "We are now making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries, and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end," he said. 

"Therefore, we recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods -- and now our Treasury is receiving billions of dollars a month from a country that never gave us a dime.  But I don't blame China for taking advantage of us -- I blame our leaders and representatives for allowing this travesty to happen.  I have great respect for President Xi, and we are now working on a new trade deal with China.  But it must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs," Trump added. 

On another trade front, Trump spoke of the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement -- or USMCA which will "bring back our manufacturing jobs, expanding American agriculture, protecting intellectual property, and ensuring that more cars are proudly stamped with four beautiful words:  made in the USA."

He asked Congress to approve the USMCA, and he also asked Congress to pass an infrastructure bill and infrastructure investment. 

Pointing to another area for possible bipartisan agreement, Trump said the next priority "should be to lower the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs -- and to protect patients with pre-existing conditions." He continued, "We should also require drug companies, insurance companies, and hospitals to disclose real prices to foster competition and bring costs down."

Trump called for more progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years, and he also asked all Americans to join him against childhood cancer asking Congress for $500 million to fund this critical life-saving research for children. 

Trump also mentioned paid family leave and will have in his budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave -- "so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child."

Then he turned to the biggest hot-button topic in recent weeks: the late-term abortion of viable babies. President Trump forcefully blasted NY lawmakers and Virginia's governor for supporting it, saying he will ask Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother's womb.

"Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth:  all children -- born and unborn -- are made in the holy image of God," he said.

Trump also addressed foreign policy problems, pointing to the crisis in Venezuela as a reason why he stands for limited government in the US saying, "The United States will never be a socialist country," a thinly veiled critique of Democrat opponents like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who are both self-declared socialists.

On North Korea, Trump announced he and North Korea's leader will meet again on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam as he works to end the threat of a nuclear rogue regime.

Turning to the Middle East, Trump spoke of the blood and treasure America has spent in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last 19 years, saying it's time for these wars to end. He reminded the assembled lawmakers of his pledge as a candidate for president: "Great nations do not fight endless wars."

The president also spoke about the world's leading sponsor of terror: the radical Islamic regime in Iran. "To ensure this corrupt dictatorship never acquires nuclear weapons, I withdrew the United States from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. And last fall, we put in place the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a country," he said. 

"We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants death to America and threatens genocide against the Jewish people.  We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism or those who spread its venomous creed.  With one voice, we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs," Trump added. 

Continuing his confrontation of anti-Semitism, the president also took the time to introduce two Holocaust survivors, telling the stories of Judah Samet and Joshua Kaufman. Trump described how Kaufman reacted to seeing American soldiers liberating the death camp at Dachau. "To me," Joshua recalls, "the American soldiers were proof that God exists, and they came down from the sky," Trump said. 

Trump wrapped his address by looking back at some of the accomplishments lawmakers of the past had achieved. Then he asked lawmakers to look at the opportunities before us. "Our most thrilling achievements are still ahead.  Our most exciting journeys still await.  Our biggest victories are still to come.  We have not yet begun to dream," he said. 

"We must choose whether we are defined by our differences -- or whether we dare to transcend them. We must choose whether we will squander our inheritance -- or whether we will proudly declare that we are Americans.  We do the incredible.  We defy the impossible.  We conquer the unknown," the president said. 

"This is the time to re-ignite the American imagination.  This is the time to search for the tallest summit and set our sights on the brightest star.  This is the time to rekindle the bonds of love and loyalty and memory that link us together as citizens, as neighbors, as patriots," he urged. 

"This is our future -- our fate -- and our choice to make. I am asking you to choose greatness," Trump said. 

"No matter the trials we face, no matter the challenges to come, we must go forward together."

The formal basis for the State of the Union Address is from the US Constitution:

The President "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." Article II, Section 3, Clause 1.

There have been a total of 95 in-person State of the Union messages, according to the United States House of Representatives website. 

 

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