August 24, 2017 under Policy, Advocacy & Research

Our American Ideals: A Reflection on the Trump Administration

By Jennifer Jones Austin

Since the inauguration of Donald Trump to the Presidency, the nation has been viciously and repeatedly assaulted with deliberate actions taken by the Executive and legislative branches of the federal government. From President Trump’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 that cuts deeply into education, health, income supports, and housing and community development, and a tax plan that would benefit the wealthy while doing little to ensure economic stability for vulnerable Americans, to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ shift of the Department of Justice from efforts aimed at advancing fair and equal justice, to the GOP’s shameful efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in a manner that would take healthcare away from as many as 34 million people, and now the President’s decisive statements giving a nod to white supremacy in America, our American ideals of liberty, opportunity, democracy, and equality for all are being challenged before our very eyes.

What is clearly discernible from these and several like actions taken by the current Administration and the Republican-led Congress is that there is a lack of moral leadership at the highest levels of our government to truly make our nation “great” in the way the words of our forefathers suggest. What is less clear is where we as a people stand and what we will do.

Representative Joe Kennedy expressed these sentiments early on with his speech on the House Floor on March 8, 2017, characterizing the actions of the Trump administration and the Republican controlled Congress, even before the ugliness that spilled onto the streets of Charlottesville:

It codifies a world view by this administration that is dead set on dividing America among the lines of the god of your prayers, who you love, where you come from, or your fate and fortune. We see it in their tax plan, in their budget cuts, in immigration policy, and now, in healthcare.

In a world view that scapegoats the struggling and the suffering, that sees fault in illness, that rejects the most basic universal truth of the human existence — that every single one of us, one day, will be brought to our knees by a diagnosis we didn’t expect, a phone call we can’t imagine, and a loss we cannot endure.

So we take care of each other. Because, but for the grace of God there go I one day. And we hope that we will be shown that mercy too. It is the ultimate test of the character of this country confronting our chamber today — not the power we give the strong, but the strength in which we embrace the weak.

As a people and as a nation, who are we? Will we choose to be the “city on the hill” where democracy reigns, and not only do we care for our neighbor but we demand and work for policies and programs that edify us all? We must educate ourselves on the issues, donate and volunteer with organizations on the frontlines, and lobby our elected officials for just policies. We must call out racism and discrimination when we experience it or see it, and participate in peaceful rallies and marches for causes meant to bring about awareness and change for our most vulnerable neighbors. It is no longer okay to sit on the sidelines, for if we do we may find ourselves living in a society where the American ideals of liberty, opportunity, democracy, and equality for all are nothing but a faded dream.

Jennifer Jones Austin is the CEO and Executive Director at FPWA and is co-host of a segment about poverty and national policy for the nationally syndicated radio show, Keepin’ It Real with Rev. Al Sharpton, which airs Thursdays at 2:00 pm ET.