As a senator, I was privileged to attend many State of the Union addresses, delivered by Republican and Democratic presidents. Members of both parties couldn’t help to be inspired by Ronald Reagan’s soaring rhetoric, or by Bill Clinton’s engaging personality. And while the nation and the Congress were divided politically and philosophically then, as they are now, there was a sense in Congress that the “people’s business” required us to look past our differences to work together for the good of the nation.
We need to get that spirit back today. President Trump’s third State of the Union address made a good start, and should serve as a place to begin. Yes, the president missed an opportunity to accept a handshake from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and she didn’t do herself proud by tearing up his speech. But those unfortunate gestures of the raw and divisive nature of the political atmosphere today shouldn’t overshadow the fact that the state of our union is still stronger than our differences.
Trump made an especially strong case that his policies have helped lift the economic fortunes of the entire nation. His tax reductions and regulatory reform have worked. The economy is growing. Unemployment is at a historic low. Wages are up. More women are in the workforce than ever before. And minority workers have made especially significant economic gains. As the president said, there has been a “blue collar boom.”
I was particularly pleased to see him single out and recognize examples of Americans who exemplify the American dream: A 100-year-old Tuskegee Airman and his grandson, who wants to be an astronaut. A man who, when given a second chance, has beaten addiction and is making a new life for himself. A single mother who wanted her child to have a better chance at a good education in a charter school, and now her daughter will get that chance. A young military family that longed to be reunited with a husband and father, and who saw that wish come true.
There’s lots of other good news on the state of the nation. America is producing more energy than ever, with thousands of good-paying jobs in oil and gas production. Instead of importing oil from the unstable Middle East, we’re producing it here and even exporting it abroad, helping both our national security and our balance of trade.
And speaking of trade, the U.S. under Trump has finally taken on unfair trade practices in China and in our own hemisphere. The new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement means new jobs for American workers. The impending China trade deal will help correct years of trade imbalances that have hobbled U.S. companies and cost American jobs. And both trade deals will help boost U.S. agricultural exports, which is great news for our farmers.
Thanks to the Trump administration’s leadership, manufacturing is resurging across the country. Consumer confidence is high, interest rates are low, and economic opportunities abound.
On the international front, Trump has rightly pushed our European allies to shoulder a fairer share of NATO’s defense of Europe and to trade more fairly with the U.S. He’s stepped up pressure on Iran’s ayatollahs to give up their nuclear weapons ambitions and their terrorist aggression.
And closer to home, the president has stood firmly with the forces of freedom resisting the failed socialist dictatorship in Venezuela. One of the great moments of his address to Congress was his introduction of Juan Guaidó, the brave leader of Venezuela’s opposition and the man the U.S. recognizes as the president of that beleaguered country.
So, America is prosperous and at peace. We’re leading the world with a strong economy. We’re defending the world with a mighty military and determined diplomacy. But there’s still much to do, and that’s where facing the future together comes in. As Trump pointed out, even in these politically divided times there are areas where Washington’s leaders should be able to reach for compromise and success.
America badly needs to rebuild its crumbling infrastructure. Many of our roads, bridges and airports are in desperate need of repair. Congressional leaders and the president have signaled that infrastructure funding is a national priority. It’s an area where compromise is possible.
And everyone agrees that Americans pay too much for pharmaceuticals. Both the White House and Congress repeatedly say they want to lower drug costs. It’s time they acted to do it.
Even in an election year political animus should be put aside to get these things done.
Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.