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The state of the union depends on which America you live in

The U.S. Capitol Building where President Donald Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address Tuesday night. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

Tomorrow night will be President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech. Like we do every year, we are going to carry it live during the final hour of the Ron & Don Show.

Typically at some point in speech it will be said that “The State of our Union is strong.” Is that true? Well, it depends on what you believe about empathy. Let’s take a closer look.

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For a large number of Americans, the state of their country is strong. If you’re invested in the stock market, your holdings have never been stronger. The markets keep going from all-time high, to all-time high. Ditto if you happen to be a CFO of a large company. Your job just got easier with lower taxes. You can simply move that money over into the profit bucket and promptly collect your bonus. Without a doubt, there are millions of people whose financial country is very strong.

But money is only one way to judge strength. Our military might is usually mentioned during the flag-waving portion of the State of the Union proceedings. Even though there is more bluster circling around our national security than usual, a sober evaluation of our armed forces would conclude that the US is still a mighty force on the world stage.

It’s easy to vilify everything about someone just because you don’t like them personally. I do that sometimes with our president. But there are some clear areas of strength in our country. One could argue that they are strong in spite of Trump, not because of Trump, but that’s a different argument for a different day.

But is the State of our Union strong for everyone who pledges allegiance to the stars and stripes? Here’s where empathy comes in. Merriam-Webster defines empathy as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”

If you have the capacity for empathy, then it doesn’t take very long to realize that for every person benefiting from the strengths I just outlined, there are at least as many people who are experiencing profound anxiety and instability. The state of their country is not very strong at all.

What you choose to do about this dynamic is the key to the entire puzzle for me. Far too often it seems like the solution coming out of the White House is a desire to maintain strength by excluding everyone and everything perceived as weak. The opposing view on this is that true strength is achieved by embracing the weak and including a way for them to elevate their station until they join the ranks of the strong. Then they reach back with the rest of the strong and help those behind them.

It’s my belief that the secret ingredient of the United States is this cycle of inclusion and empathy. It produces a strong sense of gratitude and patriotism. I think this is what made America great.

Is the State of our Union strong?

It depends.

You can hear “What are we talking about here?” everyday at 4:45 p.m. on 97.3 FM.

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