Trump and the State of the Union: America is angry and divided. Our president needs to bring us together

America is the greatest country on Earth. The oldest surviving federation in the world. Our motto is E Pluribus Unum – Latin for “out of many, one.”

Our Pledge of Allegiance includes the phrase “one nation under God, indivisible.” Stop and think about the meaning of those words we’ve all recited so many times.

In 1776, when the Continental Congress named our country the United States of America, it replaced the name United Colonies. The word “united” has always been part of us and what has made us great.

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Unfortunately, today the state of our union is divided. As President Trump prepares to deliver his second State of the Union address Tuesday night, we are a nation divided by race, religion, gender, income, party, and … President Trump.

From the day he rode down the escalator in Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for president, Donald Trump has used words to divide the country and claim that our best days were behind us.

Trump’s words of anger and condemnation have continued unabated almost every day since, and he has left our country angry and divided.

An administration official who previewed the president’s speech said Trump’s goal is bringing our country together. That was the same goal claimed by the president last year when he promised bipartisanship to pass a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.

The infrastructure plan never won congressional approval. And President Trump’s divide-and-conquer (or at least try to conquer) politics have never stopped.

A divided America not only hurts us but also provides opportunities to our enemies who wish us harm. Why any leader, let alone one in the White House, would divide us and give hope to our enemies should alarm every American.

If the goal of the State of the Union speech is bringing our country together, then the president should not focus on immigration as the main theme. The majority of Americans oppose a border wall and support immigration. But the president’s base – about one-third of the country – supports his position.

In an excerpt released from the president’s speech, he will say: “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.”

Simply saying it doesn’t make it so. We have witnessed President Trump in the last few weeks alone shutting down the government, ratcheting up his anti-immigration rhetoric, and rejecting any congressional compromise that doesn’t include the border wall that the majority of Americans and many in Congress oppose.

Finally, the president has hinted that he will announce his intention to declare a national emergency to build a wall on our southern border during his State of the Union speech. But if he truly wants to unite the country he should announce Tuesday night that he is going to sign legislation funding the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year – ensuring that there won’t be another shutdown.

That announcement should be followed by one more stating that the president won’t declare a national emergency to build the wall.

Instead, President Trump should convene a bipartisan congressional committee. The committee should work with experts it selects to develop a strategy to protect our borders while allowing those seeking asylum and other immigrants to be processed with their families intact.

These simple steps would be a step in the right direction to bring our country and Congress together.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect President Trump to do this. Instead, he will likely use his State of the Union speech to try to unify his base instead of the entire country … again.

Trump is right about one thing in his speech: The decision is ours to make. For almost 243 years we have made the decision to become a more perfect union.

What makes our country great is our constant journey to become better. To work hard and work together, to welcome those who seek America as their home, to believe in fairness, play by the rules, treat our neighbors as we wish to be treated, and lift everyone up rather than putting anyone down.

We are not perfect. But when we heed our democratic principles and reject demagoguery, we make America great. And every day we can do better.

In a well-known statement about slavery, Abraham Lincoln warned in 1858: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Yet, more than 40 years earlier, during the War of 1812, first lady Abigail Adams wrote a letter to Mercy Otis Warren and said: “A house divided upon itself – and upon that foundation do our enemies build their hopes of subduing us.”

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A divided America not only hurts us but also provides opportunities to our enemies who wish us harm. Why any leader, let alone one in the White House, would divide us and give hope to our enemies should alarm every American.

The United States of America is stronger than any one person and better than any person who seeks to divide us. That is the true state of our union. It has been true since we declared our independence from Britain and it will be true for countless years to come because the decision is ours to make.

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