What does President Trump's State of the Union address tell millennials and the leaders of tomorrow?
Trump emphasized the idea that our elected officials and public servants are not meant to be humanitarians, servants for a transnational cause, or champions for their personal ideology. The responsibility of leaders in a government of, by, and for the people is to act on behalf of their constituents.
Millennials and college students can start by looking to the needs of their community and their campus. Because, just as President Trump said, their duty is to act on behalf of Americans first.
The late former President Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
In this quote, Reagan stressed the duty of the next generation to continue the "Great American Experiment" to affirm the idea that man can govern himself. Reagan knew that in order to inspire the American people, he must set an example of leadership. Entire books and expositions analyze the legacy left by Reagan, but I can think of no better summary than one made by Margaret Thatcher when she said, “[Reagan] sought to mend America’s wounded spirit, to restore the strength of the free world, and to free the slaves of communism. […] We here still move in twilight, but we have one beacon to guide us that Ronald Reagan never had. We have his example.”
Reagan’s example inspired the next generation of public servants to fight for conservative principles in America, for freedom and liberty abroad, and reminded the world that government’s duty is to the American people first.
In this year’s State of the Union address, President Trump began his speech by re-affirming this critical concept:
“In the aftermath of that terrible shooting, we came together, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as representatives of the people. But it is not enough to come together only in times of tragedy. Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve. … So let us begin tonight by recognizing that the state of our union is strong because our people are strong.”
Through the decades, presidents have assured the American people that the state of our union is strong because they believed in the concept of their individual ideology. In other words, past presidents believed that America’s strength was defined by a subjective idea about the purpose of government. President Trump, however, defined the strength of the union by the strength of "we, the people." It was an unprecedented theme that touched the hearts and minds of Americans across the political spectrum.
Reagan emphasized the duty of every American to continue the great American experiment. President Trump reiterated this captivating message through his “America first” agenda in two major points.
First, Trump consistently underscored the idea of “America first” by expanding the typical call for political unity to protect American Dreamers. People often associate Trump’s America first message with policy proposals, which is partially true.
In his four-pillar immigration plan outlined in his speech, Trump extended an olive branch to Democrats by expanding protections beyond Dreamers and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants, providing them with a path to citizenship. Additionally, all individuals on the waiting list for family reunification (otherwise known as "chain migration"), consisting of approximately 4 million people, will be accepted. Not only is this plan a huge compromise for Trump, it challenges the system of identity politics. Because of this plan, Democrats are now faced with the difficult decision between satisfying the white “never Trump” vote and the Hispanic vote.
Trump pressed for a compromise by reminding Congress of both his and their ultimate duty as elected representatives of the people.
“My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans — to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too.”
Some have suggested that if Democrats fail to compromise by March and choose to uphold a system of identity politics, the #Resistance will be known as a movement that denies the American dream to both Dreamers and the American people, essentially blocking the American people from the ability to govern themselves.
Second, President Trump directly addressed the deeper meaning of the phrase “America first” has on the great experiment.
“It was that same yearning for freedom that nearly 250 years ago gave birth to a special place called America. It was a small cluster of colonies caught between a great ocean and a vast wilderness. But it was home to an incredible people with a revolutionary idea: that they could rule themselves. That they could chart their own destiny. And that, together, they could light up the world. … The people dreamed this country. The people built this country. And it is the people who are making America great again.”
The deeper meaning of the phrase “make America great again” has to do with restoring the framework of our Constitution. The United States became the most powerful nation on earth by following the system of government set forth in the Constitution, by focusing on the American people first.
Through his State of the Union address, President Trump inspired future leaders of both parties. Millennials need not worry about individual ideology or how closely they identify with the platform of a particular party. They must instead put America — and Americans — first.
Anthony Leonardi is a student at the University of Florida, a member of the UF Young Americans for Freedom chapter, and the founder of ThinkOutsidePolitics.com