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SOTU 2018: Reactions and perspectives



George Washington University


SOTU 2018: Reactions and perspectives

The 2018 State of the Union Address: Why is it significant?

Matthew Fuzi


Divisive. Unifying. Dishonest. Resolute. Inconsequential.

These are just a few of the many words that Washingtonians are using to describe Tuesday night's State of the Union address, a summary of the Trump Administration, Year One.

Donald Trump's hour-and-twenty-minute long speech was neither distinct nor unique in terms of its format. His first State of the Union was one of the longest in the last 60 years, topped only by Bill Clinton's 1995 and 2000 addresses. Nonetheless, it followed the same formula as previous State of the Union addresses: an extended endorsement of a single-party agenda, intertwined with appeals for bipartisanship and legislative cooperation.

Trump used this mold to discuss keystone issues like taxation, immigration, healthcare, foreign policy (particularly the ongoing conflict with North Korea), and economic growth.

"Overall, I was pleased with the tone and energy that the president was putting out tonight."

Many found solace and reassurance in President Trump's words on Wednesday evening.

In a testimony to the BBC, American University student Annamarie Rienzi applauded President Trump's atypical professionalism. "Overall, I was pleased with the tone and energy that the president was putting out tonight." She stated. "The president had a nice unifying spirit."

Moreover, Rienzi welcomed the President's praise of North Korean defector Ji Seong-Ho as well as the perceived commitment of the Trump Administration to curtailing North Korean aggression. "I was born in Seoul, South Korea, and if I had been born 50 miles to the north, I could have been in [Seong-Ho's] situation. I definitely think that dealing with North Korea is an issue that we have to address as Americans and work to resolve," she said.

Sara Doughterty, Director of Public Relations for the GW College Republicans, agreed.

"The timing of this State of the Union is especially monumentous, considering the recent tax bill that will benefit plenty of Americans, as well as a lot of the hot-button issues that the President and Congress have been weighing in on," Doughterty said.

However, she did feel that President Trump needs to reorganize his position on a few critical issues, stating that "I would like to see him clarify some of his stances on DACA and the Dreamers, on prison reform, and also set some policy agendas moving forward."

"This administration does not speak for us. It does not represent us."

Nevertheless, many of the president's detractors stood ardent in the wake of this address.

Local activist Pete Perry, an organizer for the State of the Resistance protest outside the U.S. Capitol, staunchly claimed that he was glad to miss the State of the Union.

"This particular address is aimed entirely at the President's own base of support." He said, amidst the rhythmic chanting of the crowd. "I don't think that he has shown any interest in reaching out to impacted communities in his divisive rhetoric, and I don't see any indication that he would change his direction tonight."

When asked if he felt that any good had come from Trump's inaugural year, Perry remained uncompromising.

"He has no interest in delivering, he never did," he said. "This administration does not speak for us. It does not represent us."

Later, Perry could be heard shouting into a megaphone, imploring President Trump to resign as the congregation zealously roared, "This is what Democracy looks like".

"Much of the same bluster."

Average Washingtonians on the street voiced a comparatively-disinterested attitude in this address.

One individual, known simply as "Luke", saw little significance in this year's State of the Union Address for the American people.

"He has to pivot away from a lot of drama, a lot of controversy. He's obviously under investigation [by Special Counsel Robert Mueller], and so it's more important politically for him than anything", he said, even referring to the address as, "Much of the same bluster."

Another individual, who wished to remain anonymous, affirmed that the context surrounding this State of the Union was more important than the actual content.

"He is undoubtedly one of the most controversial presidents in a good while, that's probably the most important part about this address if you ask me," they said.

Whatever the takeaways from President Trump's first State of the Union, the State of the Union Address is, without a doubt, an institution of a still-functioning democracy that will continue to keep Americans politically-engaged for the foreseeable future.