Amidst a political climate of extreme unrest, a surprising tone of unity rang throughout the 2019 State of the Union address.
President Donald Trump delivered his address on Feb. 5 at Capitol Hill, where themes such as North Korea, immigration, abortion and healthcare took center stage.
Albeit typical points of discussion throughout Trump’s tenure so far, the discussion held on Tuesday night left viewers with an unfamiliar feeling — an attempt toward bipartisan unity, something we have yet to experience since Trump took office in 2017.
The speech itself included an extreme denouncement of anti-Semitism, as well as multiple atypical left-leaning sentiments, raising eyebrows of both Trump critics and supporters.
Trump also included a nod to the increase of women in professional positions, noting that 58 percent of new jobs created this year were filled by females.
While the night included many unifying wins, First Lady Melania Trump received great criticism for failing to join the overwhelming crowd of women in the audience who wore “suffragist white,” an action that has been historically taken to get the attention of politicians and media during times of female oppression. Originating in the early 1900s, women wore the color in efforts to obtain the right to vote, according to The Washington Post.
The sea of suffragists was one of the many attempts at unity from the night, as women from all parties, and some men too, joined together to show the progress that has been made as well as the work that is yet to be done in an effort toward gender equality.
Trump, it seems, surprised himself at aims for bipartisanship.
“Now is the time for bipartisan action,” he said. “Believe it or not, we have already proven that it is possible.”
While the night did have many unifying messages, including a plea for increased cancer research and a monetary plan in place to do so, it was not without a reminder of Trump’s ultimate messages such as a border wall, the elimination of the Affordable Care Act and a firm stance on abortion laws.
Trump spoke at length about Alice Johnson, a woman imprisoned for life “as a first-time non-violent drug offender,” he said. Trump boasted about his decision to commute her sentence, but without recognition that the story of Johnson was brought to light by reality star Kim Kardashian.
Although Johnson’s story had a happy ending, it was not the morals of Trump, but the publicity brought in by Kardashian that ultimately caused the termination of her sentencing.
This decision is representative of the much larger issue of unjust imprisonment, an issue largely guided by the great racism that still exists prominently in this country, that is arguably only perpetuated by the Trump administration.
Trump then used the topic of imprisonment as a segue into one of the key points of his speech, as well as his presidency — the blockading of the southern border.
Trump blamed Mexican immigrants for the opioid epidemic, lack of available jobs and rampant issue of sexual assault in this country, urging Americans that a border wall is the only solution to the ever-present issues.
The discussion of immigration, as well as many of the other topics of the night, raised anxiety among the Lehigh community. Many Lehigh students are children of immigrants or are immigrants themselves.
Despite Lehigh’s diverse student body, both in terms of politics and background, it is clear that Lehigh turns a blind-eye to prominent political issues. By not creating campus-wide opportunities to screen the address and having limited discussion of politics from the administration, it seems as though Lehigh’s approach to the political scene only perpetuates the “bubble” students find themselves living in.
Organizations on campus exist to ensure that the issue of politics remains prominent. Clubs such as the Student Political Action Coalition and the College Democrats and College Republicans provide opportunities for students of all political affiliations to be involved and informed.
Despite being a private institution and justifiably not taking a political stance, it is the responsibility of the Lehigh administration to provide school-wide opportunities to become involved and promote political awareness.
If we want to unify, we need to be informed. As an institution it is Lehigh’s duty to inform its students and allow for political discourse and discussion.