I don’t like long speeches. I don’t like making them and especially listening to them. When I heard that President Trump’s first State of the Union address would hit an hour and ten minutes I prayed for a rain out. But because public policy is our field of mission, I listened. At one hour and twenty minutes I was still in the game for one simple reason: It was a great moment of story-telling artistry. And I never thought I could or would say that about anything Donald Trump spoke in public.
Whoever wrote that speech deserves a million dollar bonus. Not tax dollars, however, because that would be scandalous but a real private sector bonus. The optics of the speech were so powerful that even Trump-haters were melting in their own rage.
The highlight of the evening was the way the stories built one upon the next, each one more poignant and powerful. The amazing diversity and humanity of each story, the moral of each moment. Then came the story of Ji Seong-Ho of North Korea. How he suffered and nearly died of starvation on the train tracks of North Korea. How he was mutilated in a train accident and lost his leg. How he was hounded and tortured by the North Korean government and how he fled to freedom hiking hundreds of miles on his crutches. Then he stood and held those crutches in the air for all to see.
Even the pouting, protesting Democrats had to rise in applause.
This moment was much like Ronald Reagan’s “Hello Freedom Man” story that he told twice in his administration, including it in his Farewell Address to the nation. It was a story of Indonesian refugees fleeing communism in the middle of the sea on a creaky boat hoping to be rescued by the Americans. As an American ship came near the refugee boat a man stood up and waived to the sailors, “Hello Freedom Man” he cried. That was Ronald Reagan’s message. We represent Liberty and Freedom to the world.
That was Ji Seong-Ho’s point from the gallery of the House chamber. His raised crutches told the whole story.