Mr. Trump, if you believe what you said on Tuesday, put your money where your mouth is and lead by example

President Trump’s State of the Union address was well received by the American public. If you are to believe a CBS News poll after the speech, 76 percent of Americans who tuned in to hear the president on Tuesday evening approved of his message.

Trump spent a good amount of time touting his record in office thus far, focusing on the strong economy, regulatory reform, trade and bipartisan criminal justice reform. This metaphorical pat-on-the-back is customary in most States of the Union speeches. So is the use of aspirational language that appeals to the better angels of our nation’s patriotism. That too permeated the mood of Trump’s time behind the podium.

So much weight is placed on the content and delivery of a State of the Union address only for it all to fade away in the noise of a few news cycles. I think, however, that this speech may be different. It may stay in the minds of the American people because its message was so starkly different from what we usually hear day in and day out from this president. I think that is why the speech was so popular – because it was more about hope than fear (although fear was not absent.)

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Trump has a reputation for being a prolific tweeter, a straight shooter and a counterpuncher. Much of Trump’s rhetoric is rooted in a black or white, all or nothing, us versus them mentality. So, when President Trump called for unity and cooperation, the American people paid attention. Moreover, they liked what they heard because there is a thirst to end the gridlock and pettiness that has become synonymous with Washington.

To Trump’s credit, where he spoke with specificity about policy, many of the issues had bipartisan appeal – I would dare to say, some were even more Democratic-leaning than Republican-leaning in nature.

Tackling high prescription drug costs and the HIV/AIDS epidemic have long been priorities of the Democratic Party. Paid family leave, which the president also mentioned, has also been a cornerstone issue for many Democrats. So, there seem to be actionable items where Democrats could work with President Trump. In order for that to happen, both sides must check their egos at the door and focus on what is possible.

However, President Trump has an additional burden. If he really believes what he said on Tuesday, then he needs to put his money where his mouth is. If he does not turn his words into action, his message will be dismissed as being as flimsy as the paper it was written on. It was the president, not Congress, that called for unity, and it is, therefore, the president who must now lead by example, or else risk losing credibility.

I am placing neither full responsibility nor full blame on President Trump’s ability to move an agenda of unity. Democrats and Congressional Republicans clearly play a part as well. But, as commander-in-chief, and the person who called for us to “break decades of political stalemate,” President Trump must now lead this effort and get others to follow.

In his State of the Union speech, President Trump said, “As we begin a new Congress, I stand here ready to work with you to achieve historic breakthroughs for all Americans.” To me, “all Americans” means just that – everyone. If he means what he said, he should rethink the policy on transgendered individuals serving in the military, and speak with a louder voice when denouncing racism, bigotry and hate.

President Trump said, “We must choose whether we are defined by our differences, or whether we dare to transcend them.” I agree. And I will be waiting to see what specifically the president does to embrace differences and work toward unifying our increasingly divided nation.

President Trump said, “There is a new opportunity in American politics, if only we have the courage to seize it. Victory is not winning for our party. Victory is winning for our country.” Once again, I agree. And, I think Democrats and Republicans alike need to get better at laying down their arms and working for the people, not their party. How will President Trump lead by example? Even if the Democrats don’t come along, Trump can and should take the high road towards transcending party for the common good.

President Trump said, “Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America's future. The decision is ours to make.” This was my favorite part of the speech – I think it captured what we all hope for from our public servants.

So I say to President Trump, the decision is his to make. He has an unprecedented opportunity to change the course of our divided nation by changing the minds of the American people. He just has to follow through and put his words into action.

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I am placing neither full responsibility nor full blame on President Trump’s ability to move an agenda of unity. Democrats and Congressional Republicans clearly play a part as well. But, as commander-in-chief, and the person who called for us to “break decades of political stalemate,” President Trump must now lead this effort and get others to follow.

As Stacy Abrams said in her Democratic response, “Even as I am very disappointed by the president’s approach to our problems, I still don’t want him to fail.” I don’t want President Trump to fail. I want him to succeed in making his State of the Union address a reality. I want our president to succeed in strengthening the state of our union. All we can do now is wait and see if President Trump stays the course to make it happen.

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