In President Donald Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress, he again managed to raise eyebrows and amaze the nation. Where many feared that he would louse up his first major speech before Congress, he showed a strong streak of self-control. He came across as (dare I say it?) presidential. CBS News asks us, “Who was that calm, composed man, and what has he done with Donald Trump?” He was busy delivering, “a message deeply delivered from my heart.”
While Trump’s Inaugural Speech was of a dark and shattered America, this speech struck a different tone. Trump spoke of our coming 250th birthday, and of how America could look in nine years. He declared that “A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning. A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation. And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.” Trump stated that, “Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.”
He denounced the global vision of the past, saying, “We’ve financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit–and so many other places throughout our land.” Trump’s vision of America is one that first looks within America, as the object of government’s service, rather than abroad.
The President reiterated his devotion to national security. He said that we “allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America.” He called for unity, asking both sides of the aisle to work together “for the good of our country, and for the good of the American people.”
Pundits on both the left and the right are now praising Trump’s address as being the finest speech he’s ever given. The Daily Mail has even credited him with “channeling Kennedy,” with his call for courage to share our dreams.
Do not be mistaken: Trump’s ability to spin a narrative was on full display, and should not be underestimated. His rhetoric was uncomplicated, and he spoke in terms anyone can understand. He said what he thinks, whether others like it or not. His courage, or ego, are unquestionable.
So why, then, did Trump’s speech succeed? Trump succeeded because he has done something Republicans have generally been terrible at: telling a story. Policies don’t drive the public. No wonk with figures and charts ever won in the public square. The man with the best story is the one who wins. The stories of the Left have been ones of disenfranchisement, discrimination lack of affordable health care, and the like.
Trump’s narrative is a story of both pain and hope. He tells the story of Americans whose lives have been lost, both to Islamic terrorism and crimes by illegal migrants. He also tells a story where government gets out of the way of the people while still looking out for their interests first.
The greatest moment was when Trump honored Caryn Owens, widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens. Owens died during a raid in Yemen a few weeks ago. “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom–we will never forget him.”
Caryn Owens was given one of the longest standing ovations we’ve ever seen, at two minutes in length. Trump showed true humanity and presidential grace by this act alone.
This moment in particular garnered support from surprising corners. CNN’s Van Jones remarked that, “He became President of the United States, in that moment.” Saying that the moment showed Trump is capable of being truly presidential, Van Jones warned Democrats that, if Trump is able to continue to do these sorts of things, he will be in office of 8 years. Mr. Jones and I disagree on almost everything, but on this one he’s almost got it.
A final great moment was when Trump said this, “Free nations are the best vehicle for expressing the will of the people–and America respects the right of all nations to chart their own path. My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America. But we know that America is better off, when there is less conflict–not more.”
We live in a strange time when such a common-sense notion as the President representing our Republic should surprise us. But to hear it again, in a full address to the nation and its representatives, was astonishing.
I have been no fan of President Trump in the past. There are still more reasons to be skeptical of what he wishes to do, and many of us will be ready to criticize him. But Donald Trump has started along a path of achievement, unity, and sheer energy for accomplishing things. If he continues, then his record may prove to be a good one.
Well done President Trump.