By Ellen McGirt
February 6, 2019

Last night the nation turned its eyes, temporarily it seems, away from the mess unfolding in Virginia, to President Donald Trump’s second State of the Union address.

The event itself had become a contentious political football, delayed due to the partial shutdown of the federal government, and the determination of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

You can find five key takeaways here, and a thorough fact-check here.

While the president delivered his lengthy speech nearly without a hitch, all eyes were on the women House members, who – along with Tiffany Trump, for some reason – were all wearing suffragette white. It was a thrilling sight, in part because the president acknowledged an important milestone without giving himself proper credit for his role in creating it. “Exactly one century after Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before,” Trump said to the cheers of the women. “That’s great. Really great. And congratulations.”

And thanks to Pelosi’s extraordinary ability to own a television live shot, she also provided the best clap-back of the century.

But in many ways, the night belonged to Stacey Abrams, lawyer, former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, nearly the first female African American governor of a state and romance novelist. (She wrote the first of eight romance novels during her third year at law school.)

Abrams, the first African American woman to be tapped for the role, offered a flawless SOTU response, mastering a challenging gig that has stretched the skills of other politicos. It’s just hard to get it exactly right, it seems.

But Abrams delivered, starting with warm personal anecdotes about her mother and father, a librarian and shipyard worker, respectively, and the values that guided their family, including faith, service, education, and responsibility. “In these United States, when times are tough, we can persevere because our friends and neighbors will come for us,” she said.

You can find an annotated and fact-checked transcript of her remarks here.

Abrams was a smart choice for the rebuttal if an unusual one since she’s not an office holder. But she has long been a candid communicator with enviable media skills, and has earned a role in public life, even if it doesn’t currently come with official credentials. And while she hammered away at the president – the shutdown, the trade war, the separation of asylum-seeking parents and children, etc. – she used part of her time to advocate for voter access, an issue which she equates with equity and fairness.

She has been working on these issues her entire life, it seems.

Twenty-six years ago, she took the microphone at the 30th Anniversary of the March on Washington in 1993 and introduced herself as a young person, a young woman, and a young black woman prepared to continue the work of justice. “Today we come before you, walking on the road to jobs, the road to peace, the road to justice paved with the blood, the sweat, the tears of labor movement people from around the nation,” she said. “I ask you to use us… the young people of the United States of America to pave a road that will last forever.”


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