For over two decades now I have annually attempted to write a personal version of a State of the Union address. It has never been an endeavor to write what the sitting president, Democrat or Republican, would, could or should say to the nation – simply my version of a message. 

Here we are again. President Biden will be delivering his first State of the Union in a most difficult moment. Challenges at home and abroad are real and really difficult. The American people face significant challenges AND extraordinary opportunities.

I will restate, for those whose confirmation bias, hyper-partisanship or instant certainty will cause them to miss this – I am not suggesting that President Biden would, could or should deliver this – it is the State of the Union from the perspective of one guy with an opinion and a microphone. 

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State of the union

Madame Speaker, members of Congress and my fellow Americans – We find ourselves in the midst of difficult days here at home and trying times abroad. Truly these are the moments that try the souls of good women and good men everywhere.

Many in our nation are worried about where we are as a society and our seemingly fragile, fragmented and fracturing connections to each other as fellow travelers. Many are weary from the long night of the pandemic and the devastating division in our communities, the financial distress, and the tragic deaths of despair that have followed. Too many, far too many, in this country are wondering if our shared future in America can be as bright as our past or if we are doomed to decline.

My fellow Americans this is NOT the time for the citizens of the United States to cower in the corner. Now is the time for us to stand up, stand together, stand against tyranny and division and stand for each other and every freedom loving soul around the world.

Let me remind us all that the greatest moments in our nation’s history have come in times likes these. It is in such moments that we demonstrate to the world and to ourselves the principles we profess to believe and the content of the character we have forged. It has been said that circumstances don’t make the nation but reveals the essence of the true character of the country.

We face challenges tangible and real in our nation that are undermining the confidence of our citizens. Issues include: inflation, the cost of gas and groceries, government spending, healthcare, immigration, education, racism, criminal justice, climate and equal opportunity for all – just to name a few.

The cynic will declare America broken. I am here declare that despite our sometimes halting steps, flaws and failures – The United States of American is not broken – just unfinished. I remind you that my address tonight is the State of the Union – not the state of the government – and I can declare with great confidence that the state of the union is strong!

Tonight, I haven’t passed out my speech in advance so the partisans can know when to stand and applaud. I believe this is not a moment to deliver a laundry list of new government programs to satisfy partisan special interest groups and raise campaign cash.

I am determined to restore the State of the Union to its proper place as a report to Congress and to the American people. As an equal opportunity offender tonight, I state that our two previous presidents, one democrat and one republican, contributed to the undermining and politicization of this address in a most discouraging and distressing way. There are some here tonight on both sides of the aisle, and some in seats of power, who have also torn the fabric of the State of the Union through grandstanding jack-assery that might be fitting for their social media popularity but has no place in this temple of freedom and democracy. This is not a political rally.

To that end, I have extended a personal invitation to each member of the Supreme Court to join us in the “People’s House” tonight, as is right and proper. Sadly, over the past decade it has become increasingly difficult for these esteemed jurists to sit in this chamber for what has become more of a political campaign spectacle than an address to the Congress and the nation. Members of the Supreme Court, thank you for being here and for the vital work you do in the Judicial Branch to uphold the rule of law vital for our continued success as a nation.

Ukraine

Let me turn our attention to where our attention has been drawn in recent days – Ukraine. The American people have been stirred by the bravery, unity and commitment to freedom the people of Ukraine have demonstrated. It is interesting that it has taken a battle for freedom abroad that has caused us as citizens to reflect on the principles we hold dear here at home.

The people of Ukraine have set aside every difference, every disagreement, every bit of contention, previous offense or petty argument to unite. My fellow Americans we all would be wise to do the same – beginning in our homes and neighborhoods, in our communities and across this country – we should set division and trivial disagreements aside and once again unite for the good of the nation.

The current conflict is not a war between the people of Russia and the people of Ukraine. Like most wars in history, the current conflict is a war for the power of a few at the expense of the suffering of the many. The innocent and the most vulnerable in both countries will take the brunt of this unnecessary war.

Through massive disinformation we see evil being called good and good being called evil – that is how hate is stirred, contempt is cultivated and war begins to be waged. For peace to prevail citizens must recognize truth and make the moral judgement to choose freedom and self-determination.

Yes, my fellow Americans this is a moral moment. We must make a moral judgement between good and evil, as I believe we will be judged for what we do in such moments – individually and as a nation. We will stand with the freedom loving people of Ukraine and, yes, with the freedom loving people of Russia and everywhere else.

I am committing that the United States of America will lead from the front, not from behind, in providing real, tangible, support, supplies and strength for freedom to stand in Europe.

Authoritarians like Vladamir Putin don’t fear sanctions, or even military might. They fear freedom and faith. Where people of faith hold to the principles of freedom dictators and despots fail and ultimately fall.

While the countries of Russia and Ukraine appear to be divided by war, the people of those nations are united by faith.

I invite the people of Ukraine and the people of Russia to unite in a day of prayer for peace. I invite every American and the rest of the world to join them. Recognizing the sisterhood of women and the brotherhood of man will help all to recognize, and be blessed by, the fatherhood of God.

As a nation we have declared that all are created equal and that all are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We are more united and more similar than we know. I pray for peace for all lands and all people. I invite you to join me.

Challenges at home

Let me turn for just moment to several challenges here at home that we need to address. In examining these issues I invite you to reject the fake fights and false choices of the political extremes.

As you sit at home tonight I know many of you are calculating family budgets, making ends meet and evaluating future plans for home, education of children or retirement. Sharpening spreadsheets and pencils relating to family budgets is reality for most of us.

Inflation is hitting all of us. A year ago we thought maybe inflation wasn’t anything, then it appeared to be a transitory thing, now we know that inflation is just a thing. Government has made this worse, not better, and we will begin tonight to change that.

The word for tonight is AND – yes, A-N-D. Starting with energy. We can and must return to energy independence and become a net exporter of oil and natural gas to the world. We can do this AND we can accelerate our path toward clean, green and renewable sources. Currently we take dirty oil and energy from Russia and other parts of the world – they have not cared for the environment and taken steps to be cleaner and better for the environment. By returning to energy independence we will stop the flow of dirty dollars for Vladamir Putin’s dirty designs.

The natural byproduct of this initiative will also drive down the cost of energy and gas, and a host of other goods, for the American people. That will bring real relief to your budget and bank account.

 It is also time for a real audit of government spending. Here again I am calling on every member of Congress in this room, the leaders of the political parties, heads of government agencies and the American people to demand more and expect better.

I have asked before – What are Democrats afraid of? If Democrats are really for helping those in poverty – shouldn’t they evaluate every government agency and program to ensure they are providing real results that actually make poverty temporary instead of just tolerable?

I have asked before - what are Republicans afraid of? If Republicans really have compassion for those struggling on the streets – shouldn’t they evaluate what the government can and should do for those who are suffering while tackling corporate welfare and their own out-of-control spending habits?

Both parties must be committed to rooting out waste, fraud and abuse and ensure that the money of the American people is spent producing results for the American people. All this must be done with an eye to the future – we can no longer be comfortable passing along our debt and deficit spending to generations yet to be born. (It is the ultimate in taxation without representation).

There are countless other examples including business regulation, military spending, LGBT rights, tax reform, religious liberties and immigration where we can rightly, and often sadly, see that the fearful political rhetoric of both parties is more about self-preservation than it is about producing results. Tonight I am calling on Congress to embrace AND… That rule of Law AND compassion are compatible principles in dealing with refuges and immigration. That LGBTQ rights AND religious liberty protections can be preserved and strengthened. We can be the leader of the free world AND not become the world’s police officer.

My fellow Americans, I conclude tonight by channeling my inner Adlai Stevenson who said, “Let’s talk sense to the American people. Let’s tell them the truth, that there are no gains without pains, that we are now on the eve of great decisions, not easy decisions. ... What counts now is not just what we are against, but what we are for. Who leads us is less important than what leads us — what convictions, what courage, what faith … ”

I have great faith in the American people. I still believe that while our politics appear to be badly broken, America is not – We are just unfinished. I remain bullish on the future of America because I know that our greatest problems will not be solved in the marbled halls of Washington but around the kitchen tables and within the strong communities found everywhere across this country. The principles of freedom work and the American people know it. When we come together to strive to live those principles, we begin to become that more perfect union.

America, America God shed His Grace on thee. And may we show grace to one another. May we blessed with liberty and peace – and may each of us lives our lives in such a way that we warrant those blessings. Let us look outside ourselves and extend blessings of grace, peace and freedom to family, friends and fellow travelers throughout the world. Join me in ensuring that the state of this union, our union, The United States of America remains strong and free.

Boyd Matheson is the host of KSL News Radio’s Inside Sources, appearing each day from 1 to 3 p.m. MST.