Regardless of how you feel about former-President Obama, he could command a room and was an excellent public speaker. Mr. Trump on the other hand often struggles in front of the camera, and while he is making great strides, he could learn a few things from a public speaking class.
I, like millions of Americans, watched President Donald Trump deliver his first State of the Union Address since taking office. Of course, I have a lot of thoughts on this. Before I begin, it's worth noting that I am not registered to any political party, and I do not consider myself either a Democrat or a Republican. That being said, let's begin.
I was pleasantly surprised, as I was during the President's acceptance speech following the election, that his tone was much gentler than what we typically hear from Mr. Trump. His language was softer, and he did not go in for the attack against anyone. I found that to be a nice change of pace considering the aggressive dialogue that has become too common among the administration.
Another difference I was both shocked and pleased to hear was the language he used. I'm not sure if the President has hired a better speech writer or what, but his vocabulary was much better during this address than usual. It sounded more presidential than the third-grade-reading-level language he typically employs. I was honestly starting to think that "great" and "tremendous" are the only adjectives he's ever heard. This time he was well-spoken and direct, which I appreciated.
The President also appeared to be well-rehearsed, although he did rely heavily on the teleprompter and seemed a tad uneasy during some of the longer pauses for applause. Regardless of how you feel about former-President Obama, he could command a room and was an excellent public speaker. Mr. Trump on the other hand often struggles in front of the camera, and while he is making great strides, he could learn a few things from a public speaking class.
Now, to get into the weeds of what the President had to say during the address. There were plenty of things I took issue with during the speech, and some I enjoyed. Let's start from the top.
At the beginning of his speech, the President touted the "new tide of optimism" that swept across the country immediately after he took office. I'm not sure where Mr. Trump was at the time, but as I recall there was not exactly a unified sense of joy across the country last January. Riots broke out, protests turned violent, and an enormous sense of fear set in for many Americans. Immigrants feared they would be deported. Women feared the new tone that followed the country's embrace of the vulgar, and disgusting, phrase "grab them by the..." you know. Poor working families feared they would lose their healthcare coverage. We've come a long way in a year as some of those fears subsided, but let's not pretend it was a great time for everyone.
Something I did enjoy was the President's recognition of the Cajun Navy. I also appreciated his acknowledgement of Louisiana Congressman and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who "took a bullet, almost died, and was back to work three and a half months later."
Mr. Trump called on both parties to "set aside their differences" numerous times throughout his address. However, that's not something I've seen from his administration. As of late, border wall funding and DACA stalemates literally shut down the government. After promising to "make Mexico pay for the wall" countless times, Mr. Trump pushed to fund the wall construction using taxpayer dollars. Since he himself still has not tried to compromise on that aspect, it does not appear as though he is entirely willing to set his differences aside.
Mr. Trump asked Congress to accomplish a number of lofty goals during the speech, some of which I can absolutely support if they can be done. One is increasing funding for better infrastructure throughout the country. Living in a state with some of the worst roads in the nation, that's something I can certainly get behind.
The President also asked for more vocational schools to give workers better workforce training and more career options. Given the rising cost of a four-year degree, alternative education options are more important than ever.
Paid family leave is another topic Mr. Trump addressed, calling on federal lawmakers to "support working families." It's always blown my mind that one of the most developed counties in the world does not offer the same maternity and paternity leave that our peers in other countries enjoy. It's something I believe would not only improve child development, but also strengthen the family unit. I definitely support that.
Prison reform was mentioned as well. With an incarceration rate higher than any other country in the world, this is essential to our nation's progress. The President promised to "help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance at life." Since the high recidivism rate is a leading cause of our massive prison population, that's something I feel needs to be addressed sooner than later.
It's no surprise the President mentioned the boarder wall. I'm so beyond tired of talking about the wall, I'm not even going to go there.
Perhaps my biggest concern with his speech, and really this President in general, is his tone about war. Mr. Trump stated that "unmatched power is the surest means to our true and great defense." To me, that sounds like an arms race, and I don't think arms races or cold wars have ever ended well for anyone. He even mentioned increased funding for the military to improve its nuclear and missile capabilities, but made no mention of increasing pay for our troops. I strongly believe that if we are going to spend more money on guns, we should spend more on the people who shoot them too.
North Korea was not surprisingly a key point in the speech. All I have to say on that is please, Mr. President, please do not start a nuclear war. I'd really appreciate that.
Plenty of comments got a rise out of the audience. I always get a kick out of watching the faces of those present. It was pretty funny comparing the smug faces of many Republicans, including Vice President Pence and House Speaker Ryan, to the dejected scorn visible among the Democrats. It's amusing how similar the Democrats this year looked to the Republicans last year. Oh, how the tides have changed.
Although President Trump is much different than our last president, and many who came before him, there were some similarities between this address and the rest that I have seen. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump did not shy away from some of my least favorite things about these speeches.
One issue I have with every State of the Union Address is bringing people in to act as ploys for controversial issues. Every president does it during these addresses, but I've never been okay with exploiting grieving families, veterans, or children to further a political agenda. I assure you there are other ways to promote immigration reform than parading parents who lost a child in front of cameras. I believe it to be in poor taste.
Hands down, the single most annoying thing about watching the State of the Union is pausing for applause. I understand people are pleased with some of the comments he made, but is it really necessary to applaud for three minutes after every sentence? I think not.
The address ended on a high note, with the President celebrating the strength, faith, and hearts of Americans. He concluded by saying families will thrive, people will prosper, and our nation will be safe and strong. To that I would simply say, you've made a lot of promises, Mr. President. We are waiting, and we are watching.
Follow Halen on Twitter: @LikeVanHalen