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By Miriam Raftery

February 6, 2019 (Santee) -- During his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump spoke on issues ranging from the economy to immigration, also honoring the upcoming 75th anniversary of D-Day.  Joseph Reilly of Santee, a D-Day paratrooper, was among three World War II veterans whom Trump praised as “incredible heroes.”

Trump took credit for an improving economy and urged “unity” to avoid a future shutdown. He called for an end to “foolish wars” and what he called “partisan investigations” of his administration amid the special prosecutor’s investigation. 

Despite calls for unity, his speech repeatedly argued for funding for a border wall. He cited San Diego, calling for a ““smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier — not just a simple concrete wall.” The president has threatened to invoke a national emergency to build the border wall in order to keep out migrant caravans of immigrants seeking asylum.

Stacey Abrams delivered the official Democratic response. She faulted Trump for the shutdown and blasted Republicans for dismantling the Affordable Care Act, passing policies that hurt working people and the poor at the expense of tax cuts for the wealthy, and voter suppression targeting minorities.  Considered a potential vice presidential candidate, Abrams said, “…With a renewed commitment to social and economic justice, we will create a stronger America, together. Because America wins by fighting for our shared values against all enemies: foreign and domestic. That is who we are — and when we do so, never wavering — the state of our union will always be strong.”

The New York Times published a fact check of the President’s State of the Union address.  It found several false statements, including claims on the rate of economic growth and violence linked to immigrants. It also found numerous misleading statements on issues ranging from abortion to wage increases, as well as some true statements  on tariff rates and military successes against ISIS.

During the State of the Union speech, Private First Class Reilly sat beside First Lady Melania Trump, whom he previously met at a commemorative event in Paris.

But Reilly’s views on some matters do not align with Trump’s. Reilly is a Democrat and long-time labor union volunteer who has been outspoken in the past against divisive politics.

After the State of the Union address, San Diego Supervisor Nathan Fletcher tweeted a video of Reilly, in uniform, delivering a speech in which the World War II hero stated,  “I’m disappointed at some of the people in our nation that treat people differently because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, or their religion, adding, We are a better country than that.” 

Democrats brought guests of their own to the State of the Union address, including California Senator Kamala Harris, a Democratic presidential candidate. Senator Harris brought a furloughed federal worker who lost her home in a wildfire to drive home her points on how the shutdown and cuts to FEMA funding have hurt Californians, including disaster survivors. The California Senator also posted a video prequel to the State of the Union in which she stated, "The strength of our union has never been found in the walls we build. It's in our diversity and our unity--and that is our power."


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