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February 6, 2019

2019 State of the Union address recap for students

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. You may want to read this AP recap of the speech and see the extension activities below.

 

Summary: President Donald Trump covered a number of topics during his 2019 State of the Union address on Tuesday — from his continued call for a southern border wall to the strong economy to the record number of women representatives in Congress. Early in the president’s 82-minute speech, Trump said “An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations,” a nod to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump’s campaign and connections to Russian election meddling, as well as new inquiries from House Democrats.

 

The speech comes after a 35-day partial government shutdown. Another shutdown looms in the next few weeks if Congress and the president cannot agree on a budget. Trump appealed for bipartisanship, but refused to yield on the hard-line immigration policies like the U.S.-Mexico border wall. He said, “Now is the time for Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers OUT OF BUSINESS.”

 

Stacey Abrams, a former state lawmaker who lost the 2018 Georgia governor’s race, gave the response. She identified Trump as the architect of the government shutdown, stating it “defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people, but our values.” While Trump did not mention the shutdown in his speech, he stated, “This is the time to rekindle the bonds of love and loyalty and memory that link us together as citizens, as neighbors, as patriots.”

 

Discussion questions: 

 

1) Essential question: What does the State of the Union address tell us about the current state of American politics?

 

2) What issues did Trump discuss? What issues did Trump not raise in his speech? What issues would you like to have heard Trump talk about?

 

3) Presidents often use the State of the Union addresses to strike a bipartisan tone; “unity” was the stated theme of Trump’s speech. Do you think Trump’s State of the Union address struck a tone of unity? Explain your response.

 

4) Why do you think Trump did not mention the word “shutdown”? What issue did Trump say he is not willing to compromise on? (on border wall, Trump declared, “I will build it;” makes no mention of national emergency, gives no ultimatums)

 

5) At one point, Trump said, “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way.” Trump’s statement, a nod to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign, as well as new inquiries opened by Democrats in the House of Representatives, warned of “ridiculous partisan investigations” that could derail the nation’s economic progress. You can watch the clip about it here and read the AP article here. Why do you think Trump’s statement drew a wide variety of reactions from members of Congress and the public?

 

6) What do you know about Stacey Abrams? What tone did Stacey Abrams strike with her official Democratic response? Why does the opposing party typically give a response after the president speaks? Did you agree with some of the points Abrams made? Which ones? If you didn’t, explain why.

 

7) Trump discussed several issues considered to be highly partisan in which Republican lawmakers gave standing ovations. You may want to review some of them here: later abortions; economy; border wall; and North KoreaAsk students: Why are these subjects referred to as “wedge issues?”

 

8) Media literacy: Why might it be a good idea to follow “fact-checking” sites like Politifact, a non-profit fact-checking news organization?

Check out at least three other news outlets that include a variety of perspectives. You will notice a large variety of reactions–some saying Trump struck a bipartisan tone while others saying the speech was divisive. Notice the pictures these news sources chose. How do the pictures also tell a story about the speech? Why is it important to read a variety of news sources before drawing your own conclusion as to the effectiveness of the speech?

 

Extension activities:

1. If time permits, or if you are looking for extension activities, check out the following resources:

 

*WATCH: Trump delivers 2019 State of the Union

*Read President Donald Trump’s full 2019 State of the Union address

*WATCH: Stacey Abrams delivers Democratic response to State of the Union (read speech here)

*4 takeaways from Trump’s 2019 State of the Union

*PBS NewsHour’s special podcast episode: “State of the Union Aftershow” (22-minutes)

*Lesson plan: The State of the Union Address

 

Specific issues:

Economy: Trump says he launched an ‘economic boom.’ Here’s what we know

Immigration: How Trump has already changed immigration policy

 

2. Remarks about women in the State of the Union:

Take a look at the photo below. Why are the Democratic Congresswomen cheering in the photo? Why did they all wear the same color? What does the green pin that says E.R.A. stand for?

Democratic female members of Congress, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (lower, R), cheer after U.S. President Donald Trump said there are more women in Congress than ever before during his second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

 

In the State of the Union address, Trump said, “All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before” — a development without an immediately apparent tie to the Trump administration’s policies. However, according to Politifact’s Louis Jacobson, this statement is incorrect: “It’s also not very meaningful: Just counting the number of women (or men, or both) who are in working, or are in the labor force, is driven by the size of the population, which is typically growing over time.”

 

Trump also lauded the fact that there were more women serving in Congress now, a statement that prompted big applause. Ask your students: What phrase do you hear the Democrats cheering? Who had been cheering the same cheer a few minutes before? Over what issue? Why do you think Trump says: “You weren’t supposed to do that.” Watch the clip here:

 

Extra, extra read all about! You may have heard the term “Student Voice” in school or over social media. What does “Student Voice” mean to you? If you think you have a good idea for an opinion piece, consider sending a pitch to NewsHour Extra’s Student Voice blog. The blog is full of powerful, original pieces by students. Write Victoria Pasquantonio at vpasquantonio@newshour.org. We’d love to hear from you!

 

Sign up for short education highlights twice a month from PBS NewsHour here.

 

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