We are here in Fall River, Massachusetts, a proud American city. An American city built by immigrants. From tech tiles to robots, this is a place that knows how to make great things. The students that are with us here this evening in the autotech program carry on that rich legacy. Like many American hometowns, Fall River has faced its share of storms. But the people here are tough. They fight for each other, they pull for their city. It is a fitting place to gather, as our nation reflects on the state of our union. This is a difficult task. And many have spent the last year anxious, angry, afraid.
We all feel the fractured fault lines across our country. We hear the voices of Americans who are forgotten and feel forsaken. We see an economy that makes stocks soar, investor portfolios bulge and corporate profits climb, but fails to give workers their fair share of the reward. A government that struggles to keep itself open. Russia knee-deep in our democracy. An all-out war on environmental protection. A Justice Department rolling back civil rights by the day. Hatred and supremacy proudly marching in our streets. Bullets tearing through our classrooms, concerts and congregations. Targeting our safest sacred places. And this nagging, sinking feeling, no matter your political beliefs, that this is not right. This is not who we are.
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Folks, it would be easy to dismiss this past year as chaos, partisanship, politics. But it’s far, far bigger than that. This administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us, they’re targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection. For them, dignity isn’t something you’re born with, but something you measure. By your net worth, your celebrity, your headlines, your crowd size. Not to mention the gender of your spouse, the country of your birth, the color of your skin. The god of your prayers. Their record is a rebuke to our highest American eye deem, the belief that we are all worthy, that we are all equal, that we all count, in the eyes of our law and our leaders, our god and our government. That is the American promise. But today, ladies and gentlemen, today that promise is being broken. By an administration that callously appraises our worthiness and decides who makes the cut and who can be bargained away.
Brian Snyder/ReutersRep. Joe Kennedy III leaves the stage after delivering the Democratic rebuttal to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in Fall River, Mass., Jan. 30, 2018.
They are turning American life into a zero-sum game where for one to win, another must lose. Where we can guarantee America’s safety if we slash our safety net. Where we can extend health care in Mississippi if we gut it in Massachusetts. We can cut taxes for corporations today if we raise them on families tomorrow. Where we can take care of sick kids if we sacrifice Dreamers. We are bombarded with one false choice after another. Coal miners or single moms. Rural communities or inner cities. The coast or the Heartland. As if the mechanic in Pittsburgh, a teacher in Tulsa and a day care worker in Birmingham are bitter rivals rather than mutual casualties of a system forcefully rigged toward those at the top. As if the parent who lies awake, terrified that their transgender son or daughter will be beaten and bullied at school is anymore or less legitimate than a parent whose heart is shattered by a daughter in the grips of an opioid addiction.
So, here is the answer that Democrats offer tonight. We choose both. We fight for both. Because the greatest, strongest, richest nation in the world should not have to leave anyone behind. We choose a better deal for all who call our country home.
Brian Snyder/ReutersRep. Joe Kennedy III takes the stage to deliver the Democratic rebuttal to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in Fall River, Mass., Jan. 30, 2018.
We choose a living wage and paid leave and affordable child care your family needs to survive. Pensions that are solvent, trade pacts that are fair, roads and bridges that won’t rust away, a good education that you can afford. We choose a health care system that offers you mercy, whether you suffer from cancer or depression or addiction. We choose an economy strong enough to boast record stock prices and brave enough to admit that top CEOs making 300 times their average worker is not right. We choose Fall River. We choose the thousands of American communities whose roads aren’t paved with power or privilege, but with honest effort, with good faith and the resolve to build something better for your kids.
That — that is our story. It began the day our founding fathers and mothers set sail for a new world, fleeing oppression and intolerance. It continued with every word of our independence, the audacity to declare that all men are created equal. And imperfect promise for a nation struggling to become a more perfect union. It grew with every freedom rider’s voice and with every weary soul we welcomed to our shores, and to all the dreamers out there watching tonight, let me be absolutely clear — you are part of our story. We will fight for you. And we will not walk away.
ABC NewsDemocratic Rep. Joe Kennedy responds to President Trump’s State of the Union address on Jan. 30, 2018.
America, we carry that story on our shoulders. You swarmed Washington last year to ensure that no parent has to worry if they can afford to save their child’s life. You proudly marched together last weekend, thousands deep, on the streets of Las Vegas and Philadelphia and Nashville. You sat high atop your mom’s shoulders and held a sign that read, “Build a wall and my generation will tear it down.” You bravely say, “Me too.” You steadfastly say, “Black lives matter.” You wade through floodwaters, battle hurricanes, brave wildfires and mudslides, to save a stranger. You battle your own quiet battles every single day. You drag your weary bodies to that extra shift so that your families won’t feel the sting of scarcity. You leave loved ones at home to defend our country overseas, patrol our neighborhoods at night. You serve.
You rescue. You help. You heal. That, more than any law or leader, debate or disagreement, that is what drives us towards progress. Bullies may land a punch, they may leave a mark, but they have never, not once in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future. Politicians — politicians can be cheered for the promises they make. Our country will be judged by the promises we keep.
That is the measure of our character. That is who we are. Out of many, one. Ladies and gentlemen, have faith. Have faith. The state of our union is hopeful, resilient and enduring. God bless you. God bless your families. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you.