If one were to judge our state of the union based solely on the president’s speech last night, it would be a bleak outlook indeed. The Administration’s sustained attacks on women, migrants, LGBTQ folx, people with disabilities, communities of color and a whole host of vulnerable populations is breathtaking in its scope. Normally, this would be a piece breaking down what was in the State of the Union address and comparing it to the things we had hoped the president would say or refuting incorrect statements, but in what was the third longest State of the Union ever, there was little substance to dig into.
So let’s dig into some rays of hope.
- The sea of white on display last night from the many women who were elected to Congress this year. They were wearing white to honor the suffragettes who fought for the vote for women. This is the most diverse Congress we’ve ever had - including more women than ever and people from under-represented populations. This diversity is the start of changing the paradigm of how and who Congress works for and in sharp contrast to the all white, all male Congress of our very recent past.
- This week alone the House of Representatives is holding hearings on gun violence to enact universal background checks on gun sales. This is the first gun violence hearing in Congress in eight years. There is another hearing looking into the horror that is the Administration’s inhumane family separation policy; calling the people who made those decisions to account. And finally, another hearing on legislation introduced this month to raise the minimum wage in order to honor the work of low-wage workers and ensure that everyone can support their families.
- This new Congress is working to substantively address climate change in a meaningful way - spurred on by a groundswell of grassroots movements urging immediate action on the most pressing issue of our day.
- There is a growing civil society response working to address the nuclear crisis by calling for changes to US nuclear policy and authority. The Back from the Brink campaign principles have been endorsed by national faith and civic groups as well as the city councils of several cities, including Los Angeles, Baltimore, and others. A resolution will be coming to the UCC’s General Synod in support of these common sense principles to renounce a nuclear “first strike” posture and limit the powers of the President to launch nuclear attacks.
- Last year Florida voted to restore voting rights to returning citizens and legislation has been introduced to restore rights to returning citizens who have been incarcerated across the country.
- The faithful response to the family separation crisis and the moral crisis at the border has been astounding. Religious accompaniment, sanctuary churches, material, and financial support all in the name of uplifting the dignity of every person and reiterating the credo that no human is illegal.
Among all of this work is the faith community - breathing prophetic life into seemingly hopeless situations. I am reminded of Isaiah 43:19 when I look at the bold and courageous work of our faith community. “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Deep in the wilderness where we are also has new life springing forth.
Katie Adams is the United Church of Christ's Policy Advocate for Domestic Issues.