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Beyond the drama: What Canadians can learn from the State of the Union address

Written by

D'arci McFadden

Canadians are fascinated by the drama of American politics, just look at the State of the Union Address. But who can blame us? The mere act of observing a U.S. President, undivided and concentrated, is often more entertaining than our own muted political micro dramas. It was the rhetoric and polarization of Trump’s annual State of the Union that fascinated many of us north of the border: strategic ovations, politicized outfits and special guests. While you might not agree with it, it’s never been more clear what the White House’s vision is for the country, and for the world.

Since Canada will have to hold out on our own moment of pomp and circumstance until post federal election 2019, here are five themes Canadians can reflect on:

1) Unity first: Even if there were only hints of bipartisanship by President Trump, his references to unity were a stark contrast to the deadlock of the past month. Let’s remember that as a country, we don’t have two agendas, we have one. Even politicos need to agree that a unified agenda drives growth. A better quality of life is within reach if we work together.

2) A lens on policy: Fair trade, infrastructure, healthcare and immigration are priorities that transcend the border. But there is often so much hyperbole and so little action. Businesses and citizens need to encourage governments to focus on ideas, innovation and implementation. Political stalemate and gridlock limits responsible growth.

3) Jobs, jobs and more jobs: Growth of the middle class is critical to any winning coalition. The strength of our economy depends on the success of working parents and of their children. All sides need to do more than clap for the middle class.

4) Diversity makes us stronger: It is more than just the white pantsuits sported by so many female Democratic lawmakers. While Trump’s nod to gender equity progress was one of the most memorable of the night, Canadians have long embraced narratives of economic empowerment for Canadians of all genders, cultures and races. Progress gets attention, so let’s do more of it Canada.

5) Storytelling says it all: President Trump’s recognition of Holocaust survivor Joshua Kaufman and Dachau liberator Herman Zeitchik was pure class. The power of their stories, together, highlighted America at its finest. We can all learn from this. Get out, explore and share in each other’s lives. Compassion and intrigue for humankind will deliver a stronger result, and a better narrative.

While the sensationalized American political culture will always attract Canadian eyeballs, there is something more we can learn. Maybe a little spectacle of our own is what we need to get folks to pay attention.

——— Written by D'arci McFadden, former Director, NATIONAL Public Relations