Trump delivers first State of the Union address to Congress

U.Va. students, faculty react to Trump’s speech, first year in office

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President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address to Congress Tuesday evening. 

Courtesy White House

President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union Address to members of Congress Tuesday night to reflect on his first year in office and set forth an agenda for the coming year. 

Trump honored late University student Otto Warmbier during his address, condemning the North Korean government for its brutality towards its own citizens and Warmbier. Warmbier’s parents, Fred and Cindy, and his brother and sister, Austin and Greta, were present at Trump’s address and received a standing ovation from the audience. 

Warmbier was imprisoned in North Korea for allegedly stealing a poster from a hotel while he was visiting the country in January 2016 and died in June 2017, shortly after he was returned to the U.S. in a comatose state.  

“Otto Warmbier was a hardworking student at the University of Virginia,” Trump said. “This wonderful young man was arrested and charged with crimes against the state. After a shameful trial, the dictatorship sentenced Otto to 15 years of hard labor, before returning him to America last June, horribly injured and on the verge of death.”

Members of the University community have had mixed reactions to Trump’s address and his first year in office. However, many have criticized the president’s overall rhetoric, especially as it relates to the deadly white nationalist rallies Aug. 11 and 12 2017 in Charlottesville

Joseph Dennie, a second-year College student and communications coordinator for the University Democrats, said Trump’s comments on the events in Charlottesville and his revocation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order were among the greatest issues with Trump’s presidency so far. 

“Another issue which touched the U.Va. community was the recensions of the DACA status and of course his response to the white supremacist, neo-Nazi rallies in August in Charlottesville in which he said ‘There were very fine people on both sides,’” Dennie said.

In an interview with The Cavalier Daily, Dennie also said following Trump’s speech that he was disappointed but not surprised by the content of the president's address.  

“President Trump’s State of the Union represented more of the same from him,” Dennie said. “We were disappointed that issues that matter to U.Va. students, such as student debt, were absent from tonight’s speech.”

Zach Taylor, a fourth-year College student, said he agreed with many of the president’s policy decisions, such as the recent tax bill and his decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but he disapproved of Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric.

“Hopefully he'll stay off Twitter, and the rhetoric won't be as bad,” Taylor said. “I think we'll see more bipartisanship just because strategically in order to keep his party in power, in the House and stave off the eventuality of impeachment, it's smart for him to come to the middle.”

Adam Kimelman, a third-year College student and chair of the College Republicans, also said Trump’s first year in office was successful in terms of policy outcomes. However, he lamented the president's response to the events of Aug. 11 and 12. 

“On Aug. 11 and 12, we had two very clear sides and there's no moral equivalency between those fighting fascism and those who are fascists,” Kimelman added. “I think that's something he didn't make clear.”

“For me, it's just kind of trying to weigh that against the tangible results of things like tax cuts, cutting regulation or confirming [Supreme Court Justice] Neil Gorsuch,” Kimelman said. 

After Trump’s speech, Kimelman told The Cavalier Daily in an email that the president’s address effectively reflected on the achievements of his first year in office and set a bipartisan tone for future cooperation.

“I believe that the President's State of the Union was a good mix of talking about the President's accomplishments,” Kimelman said. “The president also explained his argument on immigration to the American people, while extending an open hand to Democrats by encouraging a bipartisan solution on the issue.”

Kiran Gill, a third-year College student and the head of public relations for DREAMers on Grounds, said in an email to The Cavalier Daily that the organization approves of a provision of Trump’s immigration plan that would expand DACA to include an additional 1.8 million individuals. 

However, Gill added that DREAMers on Grounds does not fully endorse Trump’s immigration policy, as it does not expand protections to all undocumented immigrants. 

“Trump’s first year in office has witnessed the repeal of DACA and the roll back of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) resulting in uncertain futures for many students and their friends and families,” Gill said.

Walt Heinecke, an associate professor of education, said in an email that Trump has divided the nation since he assumed the presidency. Heinecke blamed Trump for the white supremacist demonstrations in the Charlottesville community that have occurred since May 2017. 

“The first year of the Trump presidency has been a disaster,” Heinecke said. “We are very divided as a country to a frightening extent. Nativism, ethnic and racial intolerance, and hate crimes have been unleashed and threaten the very core of our union.” 

In reference to the State of the Union speech, Politics Lecturer Carah Ong Whaley said the president attempted to unify his base with more moderate political views through the use of narratives about immigration in particular. 

“He used a technique of storytelling to essentially make more palatable some of the policies or conflicts between his base and other elements of the Republican and Democratic parties,” Ong Whaley said. “It was sort of billed as an attempt to present a more unified picture and to unify the country.”

“Because of the polarized nature of the parties, I don't think it's necessarily going to sell, though,” Ong Whaley added.

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