After watching the State of the Union address Tuesday night, I was left feeling incredibly discouraged.
In terms of delivery, it was fairly professional, but the content of President Trump’s speech was disheartening. There were countless standing ovations over limiting immigration and building a border wall, and a disheartening number of times he used examples of others’ pain to further his point.
Trump invited the families of two teenage girls, Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, to the event, and used the story of their loss to further his agenda. Cuevas and Mickens were killed by members of a gang who “took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors,” according to Trump.
Their deaths were tragic, but it felt incredibly disingenuine to have their grieving parents stand while the audience applauded, turning them into a living, breathing reminder of what can happen as a result of immigration. He used an isolated event to categorize an entire group of people as violent, cruel murderers.
It just felt wrong, watching all of those people in suits applauding for the families of two girls who had been killed.
This was just the beginning of one of the longest State of the Union addresses in the history of the presidency. After watching the 80-minute address, I felt as though there was something wrong with America’s leadership as a whole. The event felt much more like a campaign rally than an address discussing the United States’ current state. It felt like I was supposed to be proud of my country, but I wasn’t.
Then came the Democratic rebuttal. Streamed from Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School, Joe Kennedy gave an address that took some of the sting out of what I had just watched. Admittedly, Kennedy did not give much of an argument against the president’s specific statements, but the words he spoke felt genuine. He touched on the violence and hatred of the last year and the subsequent division it’s created in our nation before delving into his main point: we are all equal, regardless of whatever else is going on in the world. He discussed how the current Trump administration has made statements and actions that convey that they believe that one’s worth is something that is not inherently possessed, but rather something that is determined on their gender, race, sexuality and religion, just to name a few factors. Kennedy’s response was more in line with his political views, as if it were something that he really believed in instead of just reading it off of a teleprompter.
His discussion of inequality in America was something that conjured up images of the Women’s March, the Black Lives Matter movement, the fight for a living wage and so many other social justice movements. His speech was one that created the idea of a brighter, more equal nation, one that everyone, regardless of their demographic, could live in freely.
In his final few sentences, he commended all of those that work for equality and for better lives, followed by a call to action for lawmakers.
“Politicians — politicians can be cheered for the promises they make. Our country will be judged by the promises we keep,” Kennedy said.
Honestly, I expected to feel let down by the State of the Union, but I didn’t expect to feel so strongly about the Democratic response. I was very pleasantly surprised by Kennedy’s speech, as he touched on a wide variety of topics that have impacted America greatly in the past year. It was a well-crafted speech from a man I’ve hardly heard anything about that served as a rallying cry for the nation; we must fight towards a better future, one where we are all free to be ourselves.