President Trump’s first State of the Union speech lasted 80 minutes and drew applause more than 100 times. One of the loudest ovations followed the story of Preston Sharp, the 12-year-old from Redding, California, whose “reverence for those who have served our nation,” motivated him to placed flags on veterans’ graves on Veterans Day. Near the end of his address, the president again took up that patriotic theme.
“Young Americans who shed their blood on the shores of Normandy, and the fields beyond,” the president said. “And others, who went down in the waters of the Pacific, and the skies all over Asia. And freedom stands tall over one more monument: this one. This Capitol. This living monument is the monument to the American people.”
Those lines brought chants of “USA! USA! USA!” by all indications for the first time ever during a president’s State of the Union address. Younger observers may have been unaware that the “USA!” chants have a history of their own. With the Winter Olympics coming up this month, the time is right to look back.
In 1980, last year of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, Lake Placid, New York, hosted the winter Olympics. Sportscaster Al Michaels would call the hockey games for NBC and in You Can’t Make This Up, he sets the stage for the showdown. “The Cold War had been coming and going for years but it was pretty frigid at that point,” Michaels explains. “The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan.”
In February 1980, “52 American citizens were being held hostage in Iran. That crisis started three months before the Olympics and would last until January 1981. To millions of Americans and people around the world, our country looked inept. We were also in a recession and the prime rate was nearing 20 percent. In some parts of the country, gasoline was being rationed and long lines at service stations were becoming the norm. All in all, it seemed as if there was a collective malaise from sea to shining sea.”
President Jimmy Carter, a Georgia Democrat, did in fact speak of a “malaise” and the “misery index” tracked the combination of unemployment and inflation. In 1980 the misery index was running at a record high of 21.98, and in the second quarter of 1980 the gross domestic product dropped 9.6 percent.
In addition, Michaels notes, “after the Vietnam War had ended and throughout the seventies, patriotism wasn’t considered particularly cool, especially among the younger generation. There was a genuine rift.”
After Vietnam, the Soviet Communists believed they had turned the corner on the West in general and United States in particular. In sports, their “Big Red Machine” hockey team dominated international play. Most of the Soviet players were in their late 20s and in the prime of their careers.
For its part, the United States fielded a team of collegians averaging 22 years of age. True to form, three days before the Olympics, the Soviets trounced the youngest-ever USA team 10-3, and as Michaels recalled, “it looked more like 20-0.”
Even so, coach Herb Brooks convinced the American players they were as good and tough as any in the world. They thumped the powerhouse Czechs 7-3, and during that game a group of fans began to chant “USA! USA!” It was the first time Michaels had ever heard it, but it would not be the last.
Against the heavily favored Soviets, Mike Eruzione’s goal made it 4-3 with 10 minutes remaining. “Our broadcast platform was starting to rock,” recalls Michaels. “The rest of the game would be completely nuts.” The Americans played with confidence and held off the rattled Soviet squad. As the final seconds ticked off, Al Michaels made the famous call: “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
The “USA!” chant, Michaels recalled, “would become ubiquitous by the end of the games.” And after Lake Placid, “we went from attempts at burning flags to waving flags. That’s what Lake Placid did. I’m not alone in thinking that the hockey team, at that particular time, had a lot to do with how we felt about ourselves and our homeland.”
Meanwhile, the Cold War may be over but imperialist Islam is on the march, infiltrating terrorists to murder American civilians, something the Soviets and Nazis never attempted. In the style of Jimmy Carter, POTUS 44 emboldened America’s enemies – particularly Iran – damaged American allies, and left the economy a wreck. As Al Michaels said of 1980, our country looked inept.
In 2016, Donald Trump defeats POTUS 44’s designated successor Hillary Clinton, despite strategic assistance to the former First Lady from the FBI and DOJ. In his first SOTU address, President Donald Trump touts American achievements, prosperity, and patriotism. As at Lake Placid, the chant “USA! USA! USA!” rings out loud and clear. Stone-faced Democrats decline to join in and Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez storms out of the building.
So beyond their sulfuric hatred of President Donald Trump, Democrats are eager to show what they think about their homeland at this particular time.