State of the Union

WASHINGTON — Three Oklahomans were honored at President Donald Trump’s third State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Trump introduced Kelli Hake and her son Gage as some of his special guests while U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK5) announced before the speech that Jena Nelson, the 2020 Oklahoma teacher of the year, was her guest. 

Gaylord NewsThis story was reported by Gaylord News, a Washington reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.

Among topics Trump discussed during the State of the Union were a flourishing economy, trade and education. 

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared to steal the show again this year as she dramatically tore in half a copy of Trump’s speech at its conclusion. A year ago, she gave Trump a clap-back for his comments on rejecting the “politics of retribution.”

Despite boos and loud cheers of “four more years,” Trump seemed to stay focused and on the script, moving forward to military affairs.

Trump: ‘You will never escape American justice’

The Hakes, of Stillwater, are the widow and son of Staff Sergeant Christopher Hake who was killed on March 28, 2008, by a roadside bomb in Iraq while serving his second tour. He was killed along with three Fort Stewart soldiers in his squad. 

The White House said it had confirmed the roadside bomb that killed Hake was supplied by Iranian terrorist leader Qasem Soleimani. 

Soleimani was killed in an airstrike by U.S. military at the direction of Trump last month

According to the defense department, the strike was focused on dissuading any future Iranian attacks.

In a thread of tweets by Trump, he said, Soleimani “was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people…,” and, “… He should have been taken out many years ago.” 

In his third State of the Union on Tuesday, Trump addressed Kelli and Gage Hake directly, saying, “To Kelli and Gage: Chris will live in our hearts forever.”

When telling Christopher Hake’s story, Trump quoted a letter Hake had written his 1-year-old son, Gage.

“I will be with you again,” he wrote to Gage. “I will teach you to ride your first bike, build your first sandbox, watch you play sports and see you have kids also. I love you son, take care of your mother. I am always with you. Dad.” 

Now 13-years-old, Gage Hake consoled his mother as she cried while the president told their story and his plan to stop terrorism and protect American lives.

“Our message to the terrorists is clear: You will never escape American justice,” Trump said. “If you attack our citizens, you forfeit your life.”

He also addressed recent tensions with Iran.

“The Iranian regime must abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons, stop spreading terror, death, and destruction, and start working for the good of its own people,” Trump said.

Both Kelli and Gage Hake stood and applauded as Trump spoke those words.

Teacher: ‘We are going to rebuild our economy

In his speech, Trump discussed the role of education in society.  

“The next step forward in building an inclusive society is making sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” Trump said.   

Jena Nelson, teacher at Deer Creek Middle School, was among those seated in the chamber to hear the president’s address.

In her campaign and throughout her term, Horn has aligned with education advocates in Oklahoma.

Horn said the reason why she chose Nelson as her guest to the State of the Union address is because it is important to show support for the people who help mold Oklahoma. 

“I invited Jena Nelson to be my guest to the State of the Union because, for the amount of time and effort and love and investment our teachers put into our students, it is important for us to do the same for them,” Horn said. 

As teacher of the year, Nelson’s passion is helping her students reach for not only their success, but also the success of Oklahoma. 

“Education is not a Democrat subject, it’s not a Republican subject. This is a subject that affects every single Oklahoman, and there is not greater investment than investing in the children of Oklahoma because when we invest in them, we are going to rebuild our economy,” Nelson said. “Our public schools have over 700,000 students in them, and every one of them needs that investment so they can be career ready and get ready to rebuild our economy.”