Though media coverage Wednesday focused largely on Donald Trump’s Tuesday state of the union, comments from the president made hours before the annual event provide insight into his view of the country’s current status.
“I want to see our country united. I want to bring our country back from a tremendous divisiveness,” Trump reportedly said, discussing longstanding rifts and citing historical examples like the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
“I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity,” he also said. “Without a major event where people pull together, that’s hard to do. But I would like to do it without that major event because usually that major event is not a good thing.”
The president was presumably referencing historical “major events” like 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, both of which resulted in the United States waging war. However, based on Alcindor’s report, it is unclear whether he specified what other events he was alluding to.
Early in his state of the union speech, he did attempt to cast a tone of unity:
“We have shared in the heights of victory and the pains of hardship. We endured floods and fires and storms. But through it all, we have seen the beauty of America’s soul, and the steel in America’s spine.”
He went on to reference what would seem to be “major events,” including hurricanes, fires, and the Las Vegas shooting last October. He told victims of natural disasters in particular that “we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together.”
Regardless of his attempt to foster reconciliation among a divided public, it remains unclear what “major event” he was referencing earlier in the day, as his comments at the pre-state of the union lunch denoted his awareness that deep divisions still remain (despite the fleeting instances of unity after the major events referenced in his speech).
These major events, while highlighting valuable and heartwarming examples of human connection, have not resolved deep societal conflicts. Considering 9/11 provided a brief era of unity only for the country to plunge further into partisan contempt, it’s anyone’s guess what type of event Trump was referencing, but nevertheless somewhat reassuring that he hopes it won’t come to pass.