WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address was notable for how often he made the story about others: a war hero, the grieving parents of a pair of slain daughters, a North Korean defector and more.
The moving narratives of service and sacrifice offered the opportunity to put some more relatable faces to Trump’s proclamations of the nation’s health, especially as the his speech offered few concrete policy solutions to the issues he raised.
“Please,” Trump said repeatedly during his address, raising his arms to the box where the guests were seated with first lady Melania Trump. “Please stand.”
There was 12-year-old Preston Sharp, honored for his work to honor the graves of every military veteran.
And there was Celestino Martinez, a special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, credited with leading a task force that arrested more than 200 alleged MS-13 gang members.
On the other side, Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado and Robert Mickens represented the victims. Their two teenage daughters — Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens — were killed, allegedly by MS-13 gang members, last year.
Ryan Holets, a police officer from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and his wife, Rebecca, brought their infant daughter, Hope, whom they recently adopted from a victim of the nationwide opioid epidemic.
The White House had announced most of the attendees in advance. But in catering to Trump’s entertainer background — and international sensitivities — it kept two of the most poignant moments as a surprise. The teary-eyed parents of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died days following his return to the U.S. after imprisonment in North Korea, earned a standing ovation from the divided chamber. As did Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean defector who triumphantly pumped in the air the battered wooden crutches he uses to walk after losing a leg before fleeing to the South.