It was an Inaugural Address in January 1961 when John F. Kennedy urged Americans to ask not what their country could do for them but, rather, what they could do for their country.
It seemed like common sense to most Americans in those days. It wasn’t about Medicare for all. It wasn’t about universal basic income. It wasn’t about government playing Santa Claus with the public treasury.
Kennedy was the second postwar president and had an idea about making America great again in a time of economic doldrums. He followed up that Inaugural Address days later with his first State of the Union in which he ominously stated: “I speak today in an hour of national peril and national opportunity. Before my term has ended, we shall have to test anew whether a nation organized and governed such as ours can endure. The outcome is by no means certain. The answers are by no means clear. All of us together – this administration, this Congress, this nation – must forge those answers.”
Ultimately, what Kennedy did was get America’s stagnant economy moving again by signing on to the biggest tax cut in the nation’s history up until that moment – slashing the highest tax rate from an unbelievable 91 percent.
What followed was prosperity that wouldn’t be seen again until Ronald Reagan followed the same formula in the 1980s.
Kennedy and Reagan – these were the gold standards of State of the Union addresses in the last 60 years.
And then came Donald Trump’s in 2019.
What his Make America Great Again campaign had accomplished in his first two years in office defied the odds because of the opposition he faced, not only in the Democratic Party (one much different from the party of JFK), but from within his own. Opposition also came from within the permanent government establishment in Washington known as the Deep State, from within the media, the powerful new digital cartel that had emerged as the monopoly distribution source of news and information and most of the other critical national cultural institutions.
Then came his highly anticipated speech, delayed by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, supposedly for “security reasons,” following a government showdown in which Democrats refused to provide his administration with a requested $5.7 billion for border security.
As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich observed, “Every once in a while a speech is so effective and powerful it changes the trajectory of history. President Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address was that kind of speech.”
It was more than words read on a teleprompter.
It was a supreme performance – dignified, positive. It provided America with an alternative view of a potential future.
Let’s just cut to the chase: It was the very best State of the Union in my lifetime – which is nearly 65 years. It may have been the best ever.
He explained that we don’t have to become a socialist nation, setting ourselves up for economic failure and the end of liberty.
He explained that we don’t have to become a nation that takes the lives of its inconvenient and innocent citizens on both ends of life’s age spectrum.
He explained how we need to protect the lives and property of our own citizens by defending our borders and sovereignty.
It was a supreme lesson in what government’s responsibility is to its people – as well as what its limits should be in a free society.
How was it received nationally?
With 76 percent approval and only 24 percent disapproval, according to a CBS poll.
In other words, he did what most Americans would have thought impossible in a time of ferocious division. He united the country.