Tensions and anxieties may be high between conservatives and liberals, but a very different emotion was on the face of a special guest during the State of the Union address Tuesday evening.
During a segment of his much-anticipated speech focusing on criminal justice reform, President Donald Trump drew attention to a woman he had invited to the Capitol: Alice Marie Johnson.
Johnson made headlines back in June after she was released from prison, where she had been serving a life sentence for non-violent drug charges.
Trump was moved by her story and commuted her sentence, holding her up as an example of how unfair laws can hurt good people.
“While this Administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said on behalf of the president at the time.
But Trump obviously hasn’t forgotten about the woman. As the nation and much of the world looked on, he acknowledged Johnson and her time in prison.
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“Over the next 22 years, she became a prison minister inspiring others to choose a better path.”
“She had a big impact on that prison population and far beyond. Alice’s story underscores the disparities and unfairness that can exist in criminal sentencing, and the need to remedy this total injustice,” the president said.
“She served almost 22 years, and had expected to be in prison for the remainder of her life,” the president continued.
“In June, I commuted Alice’s sentence. When I saw Alice’s beautiful family greet her at the prison gates, hugging and kissing and crying and laughing, I knew I did something right,” Trump said.
As the camera showed Johnson in the gallery seated next to prominent members of the Trump family, strong emotion came over her face.
“Alice is with us tonight, and she is a terrific woman,” the president declared as he encouraged her to stand to be recognized.
The emotion on Johnson’s face turned to tears as she waved to the cheering crowd and she wiped her eyes, waving back.
“Alice, thank you for reminding us that we always have that power to shape— the power to shape our own destiny,” Trump concluded. “Thank you very much.”
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