March 1 2017
“What do you have to lose?”
That was the question that candidate Donald Trump posed to the black community while on the campaign trail. Much criticism was made of him being inauthentic when talking about crime, a lack of education, and jobs in black and Hispanic communities as well as attributing the harsh realities that some in the minority communities face to all people of color.
However, in last night’s address to Congress, President Trump articulated goals that will benefit all Americans, but send a clear message to the black community that they stand to gain from his agenda in some key ways. Here are three areas, I identified:
1. Hate is not acceptable!
President Trump opened his speech referring to end of Black History Month and a strong condemnation of the racially-motivated hate that’s particularly affecting the Jewish community:
Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation's path toward civil rights and the work that still remains. Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.
He revisited the divisiveness later when he noted:
We are one people, with one destiny. We all bleed the same blood. We all salute the same, great American flag. And we are all made by the same God.
That’s a clear call to put aside the politics that so easily divide and particularly exploitive demographic politics that aim to peel off support or garner power but does little good for the American family.
2. Kids deserve choice in education!
Trump made school choice a loud and clear mandate for his Administration. In highlighting a black young woman, Denish Merriweather, whom he invited to sit in the first lady's box, we saw a successful example of what happens for a child who struggles educationally, but is given access to a different learning environment where she was able to thrive. Ms. Merriweather became the first in her family to graduate high school, college, and graduate school – earning a master’s degree in social work.
In fact, our children will grow up in a Nation of miracles.
But to achieve this future, we must enrich the mind --- and the souls --- of every American child.
Education is the civil rights issue of our time.
I am calling upon Members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.
We want all children to be able to break the cycle of poverty just like Denisha.
This follows a new executive order signed earlier in the week that makes students at historically black colleges a priority, by moving the initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities from the Department of Education to the White House to give greater attention to the issues of these unique schools and possibly greater resources.
3. Let's bring law enforcement and communities back together.
The past few years have been full of social unrest driven by deadly encounters between police and people in some communities. It has spawned social movements and become a wedge issue in politics.
President Trump made clear that safety is a key expectation for every child and every adult in all communities. This is particularly important for many blighted urban and suburban areas where many people of color are forced to accept a status quo that leaves their dreams dashed and lives at risk.
But to break the cycle of poverty, we must also break the cycle of violence.
The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century.
Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job.
But to create this future, we must work with --- not against --- the men and women of law enforcement.
We must build bridges of cooperation and trust --- not drive the wedge of disunity and division.
Police and sheriffs are members of our community. They are friends and neighbors, they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters -- and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry whether or not they'll come home safe and sound.
Beyond these messages is his intention to stimulate the economy to spawn stronger job growth. President Trump spent the greatest amount of time talking about getting all Americans to work. This should be a welcome focus for a demographic that suffers from chronic unemployment – about double the national average.
The President concluded on a strongly positive tone:
Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people. Cures to the illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope. American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream. Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect.
And streets where mothers are safe from fear -- schools where children learn in peace -- and jobs where Americans prosper and grow -- are not too much to ask.
His messages are clear. It’s going to take effort though from both Congress and the Administration to make this happen.
How is this being received? Even black progressive talking heads are taking note of lasty night’s speech. CNN’s Van Jones, formerly of the Obama White House and frequent Trump critic, made a powerful admission:
… For people who have been hoping that maybe he would remain a divisive cartoon, which he often finds a way to do, they should begin to become a little bit worried tonight, because that thing you just saw him do, if he finds a way to do that over and over again, he's going to be there for eight years... But he did something tonight that you cannot take away from him. He became president of the United States."