By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Tuesday night, January 30, was the first time President Trump gave a State of the Union speech, and while there were predictable political shenanigans in abundance both before and after, I am going to do my best to steer clear of getting sucked in by them. Instead, I am going to make this all about me and tell you what inspired me most. I am going to shamelessly foist upon you the stories that moved me to tears, and there were several. The stories were about people and not parties, and if there is a point to this Publisher’s Point, in part, it is about the sheer power of storytelling itself.
Let us start with the end in mind: people were on their feet giving standing ovations more than 75 times, and the longest and loudest were not for the President, they were for his guests. The longest of the night, which lasted for a full minute and 36 seconds, went to Carryn Owens. Her husband Ryan was one of the SEALS killed in Yemen this year.
It was a night when first responders were rightfully shown the appreciation they deserve. One of these, a police officer from Albuquerque by the name of Ryan Holets, had stopped a woman who was a heroin addict from injecting herself, got her help, and he and his wife Rebecca adopted her baby, whose name is Hope. The detox that the birth mom went through did not occur in time for baby Hope to escape her own battle with addiction, and Hope is on her own tiny path to recovery that I hope one day turns into a highway for others. A California firefighter named David Dahlberg rescued 62 kids at a camp during the wildfires of 2017. Jon Bridgers, the founder of the Cajun Navy, and Coast Guard Petty Officer Ashley Leppert were honored for saving hundreds of lives during the hell that was Hurricane Harvey.
Then there was 12-year-old Preston Sharp, who was troubled by the fact that the graves of military members were not properly decorated, and started the Flag and Flower Challenge, a campaign to get a flag and a red carnation on to their gravesites. So far this guy has been successful to the tune of 40,000 flags and flowers now honoring our military. Staff Sergeant Justin Peck, against all odds, saved the life of his buddy while they were battling ISIS in the Great Sandbox. Contrast that with the tragic deaths of two girls at the hands of MS-13 here at home, the grief of their parents, and the ICE officer whose efforts have led to the arrest of more than 100 MS-13 gang members. We wept with the parents – Elizabeth Alvarado, Robert Mickens, Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas – and we thanked C.J. Martinez, the ICE officer whose whole life is dedicated to stopping MS-13. The girls were black, Martinez is Hispanic, and the point is that Americans experience horrific things, and Americans rally to help.
Americans are also legendary for honoring non-Americans in other lands for unparalleled courage demonstrated in seeking freedom for themselves and others. So, for me, the night went to a North Korean defector who now lives in South Korea and helps others recover from the brutality experienced just over the border. His name is Ji-Seong Ho. I will never forget the look on his face as the Americans in the room, Americans who were born here, who immigrated here, who are of every color and background, stood to their feet and thundered their applause. His face was a quizzical combination of joy, pain, uncertainty, confidence, defiance-in-the-face-of-repressive-evil, and bedazzlement; and in one moment, even though he is not a citizen, he became the new poster child for all that is good in our land. And that, dear readers, is way more important to me than which one first used the term “a new American moment,” Hillary or the Donald.