Opinion: The State of the Union From an SVC Student’s Perspective


On Tuesday February 5, 2019, our illustrious president stood on the House floor to deliver his so called “annual report” on the state of the US. Two weeks ago it seemed unlikely that Trump would be given such an opportunity, what with the longest government shutdown in American history in full swing. As Trump gave the okay to start paying more than 800,000 government employees again, House Speaker Pelosi extended an invitation for Trump to posit how he sees the state of affairs in the country. Forgive the heavy sarcasm. It’s not that there isn’t anything to celebrate right now. It’s actually where Trump began his speech as he saddled up to the Speaker’s podium, calling for bipartisanism, in what he claimed was neither “a Republican agenda [n]or a Democrat agenda,” but an agenda for the whole country. Instead the question I have is, why should any of us care?

Sure, the economy is looking up which is good for everyone (and no, this is not a Trump fallacy), but how much does the average person really care about bipartisanship, investigations into Trump’s (allegedly) less than legal campaign, or some wall along the Mexican/U.S. border? After sitting through the eighty-two minute speech I sat for a while trying to make sense of what I had just watched. There was a man who had closed down our government over petty party politics trying to make light of it while hinting at a looming shutdown if he doesn’t get his way by the 15th. Yet he calls for bipartisan while all out begging for an end to the Constitutional Oversight as well as his dealings in Russia, stating “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.” Simply put, if he doesn’t get his way, there can’t be executive and congressional cooperation.

What was completely absent in his speech was any real consideration for the American people; the government employees who were out of a paycheck and likely will be again, all of us, struggling college students combating rising education costs and an uncertain job market, as  well as the increasing disparity between the rich and poor in this country. Instead, according to President Trump we should be concerned with a border most of us haven’t seen and a so called “crisis”, few of us really feel.

While Trump went on about the players in Washington fighting their party battles over things that don’t concern us, Stacey Abrams had a very different message. For those who don’t recognize the name (and I get it, like I said government squabbles don’t resonate with the average college student), Abrams ran for governor in Alabama and lost this past election. She’s considered a rising star in the political world. As a black woman, choosing her to deliver the Democratic rebuttal wasn’t something done without motivation.

Whatever political purpose it served, Abrams’ eleven minute speech had a touch more realism to it. She painted a portrait of the modern American; a constant economic struggle which many of us are already a part of (and if we’re not yet, we soon will be). She brought up insurance, education costs, labor, and the disadvantage of the recent tax cut on the middle class, as well as social issues such as gun control, school shootings, voter suppression, and, yes, immigration and Trump’s wall. It was a call to action, not focusing on politics but the very real issues most Americans worry about. What it and Trump’s speech lacks is any answer. Trump, with his optimistic view of his past year, and the Abrams with her pessimistic portrait of American life, the people are left bereft of answers. What are you going to do to keep education costs down, insurance and drugs affordable, and prevent the government from being shut down  yet again?

Well, it seems that neither party has an answer, so I ask again, why should we care what they had to say? Let me know your thoughts below.