Donald Trump gave his first address to the joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening, and the speech started with a vastly different tone than we've come to expect from the president. Trump opened the speech with words meant to unite our nation, to stress the idea that, above all, the values of the United States do not include promoting hate in any form or fashion. In a time in which our country feels deeply divided, the sentiments would have been stirring if they had been said by anyone else. But Trump's words about unity and denouncing hate are useless when they're coming from a man whose policies are tearing people apart.
Trump opened the speech by noting that he was delivering the speech on the last day of Black History Month, highlighting both the progress that the country has made and the long road ahead.
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.
The last part of that received a long standing ovation. And certainly, one would hope that our president would condemn "hate and evil in all its forms." But the fact is, there are plenty of forms of hate and evil that the Trump's policies promote.
Putting a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries and indefinitely barring Syrian refugees? That doesn't necessarily promote unity. And neither does splitting up families through potentially massive deportations or stripping some of our most vulnerable Americans of their health insurance.
He continued this type of rhetoric throughout the speech. At one point, Trump introduced Denisha Merriweather, a guest sitting in the gallery, who Trump held up as an example of school choice being able to lift someone out of the "cycle of poverty." Never mind that school choice and tax credits do little to help low-income families.
Trump is, if absolutely nothing else, a salesman. And on Tuesday night, he wanted to sell the idea that he is a president for everyone, someone who will unite us in the face of horrible division. But what happens when he isn't reading off of a teleprompter? That's the real thing to watch. Now, more than ever, actions are much stronger than words.