A bullish US President Donald Trump has proclaimed a “new American moment” as he delivered his maiden State of the Union speech.
In his address to Congress on Tuesday from the Capitol Hill, he told lawmakers: “There has never been a better time to start living the American dream.”
Addressing the joint session of Congress in the chamber of the House of Representatives, Trump outlined his administration’s goals for the next year, including policies on trade, immigration, infrastructure and national security.
In an upbeat message, a world away from the apocalyptic tone that he had struck in his “American carnage” inaugural address in 2017, Trump said his administration was “building a safe, strong and proud America”.
He defended “the extraordinary success” he has achieved since taking office on January 20, 2017, and called on the Congress to work together and set aside differences.
Trump started off with: “Over the last year, we have made incredible progress and achieved extraordinary success.”
He asked the Democrats and Republicans “to set aside” their differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity “we need to deliver for the people. This is really the key…”
As many as 40 million television viewers were expected to tune in to the primetime address as he implored the nation to come together as “one team, one people and one American family”, the excerpts released by the White House said.
Although the American economy is booming, Trump’s approval rating languishes, the BBC said.
On foreign policy, Trump noted that nearly all the territory in Syria and Iraq once controlled by the Islamic State (IS) group has been retaken. He vowed: “We will continue our fight until IS is defeated.”
Trump praised an army staff sergeant, Justin Peck, who risked his life to save a comrade in Iraq and was awarded a Bronze Star.
Peck stood behind the First Lady Melania Trump. Peck received waves of applause as he shook hands with her.
Terrorists are not just evil but unlawful criminal combatants, Trump said and came down heavily on earlier “weak” US policy to release terror faces like IS chief Al Baghdadi.
“Detain terrorists”, he said. “In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield — including the IS leader, Al-Baghdadi.
He vowed to keep open the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay.
“As part of our defence, we must modernise and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression,” he said.
Trump said one day there would be a magical moment when countries of the world would get together to destroy all the nuclear weapons,” unfortunately that time has not come yet”.
On Iran he said: “When the people of Iran rose up against the crimes of their corrupt dictatorship, I did not stay silent. America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom.
“I am asking the Congress to address the fundamental flaws in the terrible Iran nuclear deal.”
Trump’s address was well punctuated by loud applause, thumping of approval and standing ovations.
For an hour and 20 minutes Trump spoke to unify the country as he ended with: “The people dreamed this country. The people built this country. And it is the people who are making America great again.”
He stepped down from the rostrum after the winning line for the Republican side: “As long as we are proud of who we are, … there is nothing we cannot achieve…”