President Trump delivered one of the best speeches of his presidency last night, weaving together aspirational rhetoric with raw, emotional personal stories, as well as a focus on key issues of deep concern to Catholics.
And Americans agreed…
A snap CNN poll showed that 76% of viewers approved of what President Trump said. And according to CBS, 72% agreed with what he said on immigration — his signature issue.
Here are Five Reasons why President Trump’s speech might be the most “Catholic” State of the Union we’ve ever heard.
President Trump delivered some of the strongest pro-life words ever uttered in a State of the Union speech. The president called on Congress to pass legislation outlawing late-term abortion for children who can feel pain, saying: “All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.”
He also pushed back at politicians in recent weeks who enthusiastically supported late-term abortion and, in some cases, infanticide. “Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth. These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world.”
The roar of applause from the House chamber still gives me chills.
2. Pro-Family Policies
The bean counters at the Wall Street Journal probably didn’t like it, but President Trump called for nationwide paid family leave “so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child.” He’s right to do so. The birth rate in the United States just hit a historical low.
But President Trump didn’t stop there. He also made a plug for school choice to help working parents. And then noted that his recent tax reform bill doubled the child tax credit.
Most importantly, he touted the historic economic success now underway in America, including record-low unemployment among African Americans and Hispanic Americans — and rising wages.
If the best poverty program is a job, then President Trump has every right to brag.
3. Winning Message on Immigration
Catholics are often conflicted on the President and immigration. But data suggests they’re more troubled by his rhetoric than his policies. Last night, the President did far more to advance immigration reform than months of frustrated tweets and a government shutdown have accomplished.
He rightly emphasized yet again how our insecure border hurts the working poor with lower wages and strains on social safety programs. He also pointed out that the chaos on the border is dangerous for illegal migrants as well — including terrible incidences of sexual assault, human trafficking, murder, and the flow of lethal drugs into our cities. “This is a moral issue,” the President said. And “[t]olerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate — it is cruel.”
Perhaps of greatest significance was a line not contained in the official text of the speech, but which he added on his own: “Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways… I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally.”
No wonder Americans liked it so much.
4. Smart Foreign Policy
One thing that has united both Democrats and Republicans in the Beltway has been support for continued military action in Afghanistan and the Middle East. It’s been the story of U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century — despite clear warnings from St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
Trump has surprised many observers by avoiding new military engagements. He has resisted an extended intervention in Syria. In fact, he’s trying to get our troops out of that country. And he’s pushing for a peace process that could finally bring many of our troops home from Afghanistan — a war we’ve fought for almost 18 years.
Trump noted to bipartisan applause: “Great nations do not fight endless wars.”
And on trade, the President deserves credit for leading a new push to rebalance our trade deficits with countries like China. The data is growing. Americans have traded away quality jobs and a robust manufacturing base in exchange for cheap products, a working class mired in drugs, social disruption, and massive income inequality.
No quick tariffs or modified trade agreements will fix these problems overnight. But it’s high time our leaders address the causes and have the guts to begin fixing them.
5. No to Socialism, Yes to Solidarity
Eliciting what might have been his biggest applause of the night, President Trump was unambiguous: “Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”
“America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free.”
In rejecting socialism, President Trump didn’t embrace a ruthless hyper-capitalist view focused exclusively on efficiency and GDP. Trump’s goals are clear: he wants to rebuild the middle class by investing in infrastructure, securing our border, incentivizing manufacturing, and putting the American family first, including the unborn.
He urged us to “rekindle the bonds of love and loyalty and memory…”
He urged unity, cooperation, compromise and…the common good.
Choose greatness, he said.
A Catholic State of the Union speech?
I’d say so.
P.S. “5 Reasons” is always a fun compilation. However, I can’t help but mention a sixth reason for Catholics to applaud the President last night– one that even President Trump didn’t mention. Sitting in the chamber last night were Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Two constitutionalist judges who will serve for decades.
I guess that’s reasons six… and seven!