Weekly Column

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On February 4th, the President gave his State of the Union speech to Congress and to the American people. The annual address is meant to be a unifying tradition, a return to the qualities that have defined the American spirit since our founding: equality for all, freedom of faith, a level playing field, and the opportunity to reap the rewards of the hard work we sow.

The State of the Union is a measure of who we are, where we stand, and where we are going. It is a time to reflect on our storied past and instill hope for our future.

President Trump began his address by highlighting statistics of our growing economy: seven million new jobs, an all-time low in the average unemployment rate for African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and the real median household income is at its highest level in history. The unemployment rate for women is the lowest it has been in the last 70 years with, as he said, “women filling nearly 72 percent of all new jobs added.”

Tax cuts and Opportunity Zones are encouraging investors and companies to invest in communities that have potential for positive growth to improve the lives of their residents. The president pointed to the gallery to recognize his first guest, Tony Rankins, an Army veteran whose life was upended because of drug addiction. Homeless and separated from his loved ones, he built a construction company that invested in Opportunity Zones. “He is now a top-tradesman, drug-free, and reunited with his family,” said the president.

President Trump went on to highlight another guest: Iain Lanphier, a 13-year-old boy, who is first in his class at an aviation academy and aspires to serve in the Space Force one day. Sitting next to Iain was his inspiration: the boy’s 100-year-old great grandfather, Charles McGee. He is one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen –America’s first black fighter pilots who flew for freedom during World War II.

As the speech progressed, the president continued to feature other incredibly inspirational guests and share their stories.

Sgt. First Class Townsend Williams was reunited with his family after he returned from Afghanistan, his fourth deployment. Carl and Marsha Mueller were honored– their daughter Kayla was captured and killed by ISIS in 2008 while serving as a humanitarian worker in Syria. We paid tribute to a man named Jody, whose brother was murdered by an illegal immigrant in a sanctuary city.

Shockingly, throughout the speech, I watched as most of my Democrat colleagues did not rise to applaud these inspirational people. War heroes, the mother of a baby born prematurely, a young female student who received a scholarship – all of these stories were met with no applause from most of my Democrat colleagues. No matter what their opinions may be for the president, common courtesy should have prompted them to recognize these American citizens.

These public divisions among us came to a deeply disturbing culmination as Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore the president’s speech apart on national television.

I want to make this very clear to future generations of our state’s public servants: to show disdain for these American stories is disrespectful to our nation as a whole. This is not who we are as Nebraskans. It is not who we are as Americans.

I encourage us all to learn from this. Let’s rise above the blind rage and partisan fever our nation is experiencing and refocus on the bipartisan issues that need attention– like strengthening our national security, providing for our veterans, improving our declining infrastructure, finding cures for deadly diseases, and so much more.

Let’s continue to build on the hope that has risen from our bipartisan successes in national security, education, and medical and scientific research to ensure the state of our union remains strong.

In this mindset, I’ll leave you with the words of the president, who in his closing lines captured the essence of America’s never-ending pursuit for a more perfect union: “Our spirit is still young; the sun is still rising; God’s grace is still shining… and the best is yet to come.”

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.