President Donald Trump was inspiring: “Tonight I ask you to choose greatness!”
Although Trump is not the most thrilling of orators, he is masterful in front of a live and televised audience; he had friends and foes laughing, cheering, and crying. But no one can doubt his conviction, his love of country, and his gritty determination to advance the national interest.
It is how the national interest—and American greatness—is defined that is critical to evaluating both Trump’s second State of the Union Address as well as the accomplishments of his administration to this point. Trump emphasized individual liberty and security for all. He began and ended his speech by lauding sacrifices of the Greatest Generation and then called on us to lead the world in the areas of personal freedom, science, and international security.
One of the night’s powerful themes was human dignity and life. Trump introduced a concentration camp survivor and pledged to protect the vulnerable: the unborn baby from abortion, the law-abiding citizen from crime-wracked ghettos, and those vulnerable from human trafficking and insecurity. He called partial birth abortion evil and “unborn and born” babies “holy.” Indeed, it may be the case the Donald Trump, with executive orders and court nominations, will be the greatest pro-life president since Roe v. Wade.
What makes America great? For Trump, part of that greatness lies in America’s regard for life and liberty. Looking abroad, he castigated the villainous regime in Tehran and murderous Islamic State because they repress their own people, attack their neighbors, and advocate genocide of the Jewish people. Trump showcased a Holocaust survivor who was seated next to a D-Day GI who had liberated a concentration camp.
Trump promoted a vision of American leadership for the twenty-first century: accountability in international relations (e.g., sanctions on Iran and China), leadership in medicine and science, upwardly mobile low- and middle-income families, a reduction in foreign wars, and respect for the lives and opportunities of average citizens everywhere, from Venezuela to Syria to American inner cities. According to Trump, his administration has a track record of sturdy action on domestic and foreign policy. It is up to his observers and critics to analyze the record, not just the rhetoric, to evaluate success. From a revised NAFTA to engaging North Korea to a booming economy to a smashed ISIS and Trump’s vision for strengthened families and protections for the unborn, Trump’s speech provided evidence that he is working hard to “make America great again.”
Eric Patterson, PhD, is past dean (2012–18) and professor at Regent University’s Robertson School of Government. He is the author or editor of 14 books, including the just-released Just American Wars: Ethical Dilemmas in U.S. Military History.
Photo Credit: Screenshot of President Trump delivering the 2019 State of the Union Address on February 5, via US State Department.