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A Year Of Trump Speeches Have Common Threads


OK. So we were talking with a White House official yesterday, and he says, before you ask me about the State of the Union speech, I don't know what's in the State of the Union speech. It can be hard to look ahead to the speech tonight. As with any speech by any president, whatever we learn in advance is likely to be only what the administration wants to publicize. But we can look back and learn from speeches President Trump has given before. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith has seen a lot of presidential speeches in the past year, and she found some common themes.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: On the surface, President Trump's speech to Congress last year, carefully crafted and read from a teleprompter, couldn't be more different from the divisive stem-winder he delivered in Alabama in September in support of former Senator Luther Strange. But get past the riff about football players kneeling during the national anthem, and there is surprising consistency. Same goes for last Friday's sober speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and the message of the American carnage Trump delivered at his inauguration. What follows is the art of a Trump speech. First of all, most speeches find a way to mention his 2016 victory. Take the one in Alabama.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I decided, very, I think, intelligently, to campaign in the states that you have to win for the Electoral College victory that you need. You know, it's very simple, very simple.

KEITH: In his address to Congress last year, it was wrapped in a certain grandiosity. But the reference to Trump's election victory was unmistakably there.


TRUMP: The chorus became an earthquake, and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple but crucial demand - that America must put its own citizens first.

KEITH: Which leads to the second consistent Trump-speech refrain - America and Americans first.


TRUMP: We will follow two simple rules - buy American and hire American.

KEITH: This was Trump speaking at his inauguration.


TRUMP: We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world. But we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

KEITH: And here he is, almost a year later, last week in Davos.


TRUMP: I will always put America first just like the leaders of other countries should put their country first, also. But America First does not mean America alone.

KEITH: Another element of Trump's speeches is optimism, even in his speeches that are remembered for their darkness.


TRUMP: And the crime, and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed...

KEITH: Like the inaugural address.


TRUMP: This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.


KEITH: There's also often a nod to optimism and unity.


TRUMP: We are one nation, and their pain is our pain, their dreams are our dreams, and their success will be our success.

KEITH: The emphasis varies, but the underlying message often does not. The language was similar in September at the rally in Alabama as President Trump addressed the recent hurricanes.


TRUMP: When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. We grieve over all that's been lost, but we're also inspired by the incredible strength and spirit and resilience of our people.

KEITH: But Trump consistently blends talk of unity and optimism with the language of division - us against them, including immigrants.


TRUMP: We cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.

KEITH: ...Democrats...


TRUMP: They lost the election, and they didn't know what happened.

KEITH: ...The press...


TRUMP: Fake media, fake news.

KEITH: ...The establishment...


TRUMP: The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories.

KEITH: ...And even professional football players.


TRUMP: ...Because that's a total disrespect of our heritage. That's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for, OK?

KEITH: And one last thing you'll find in just about every Trump speech, and we've been told to expect tonight - an exuberant touting of the successes of the Trump presidency, usually with a dash of Trumpean (ph) hyperbole. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF EVIL NEEDLE'S "CONSCIOUSNESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.