If there was a single defining image that will be remembered from the SOTU address, it will be that moment when one man raised a pair of crutches up over his head.
As far as powerful personal stories go, Ji Seong-ho’s would be tough to beat.
His story was the climax of the SOTU speech.
We’ll include that here, also his personal story, and the important work he’s begun now that he’s earned his freedom.
Struggling for survival in North Korea during the famine in the 90’s, Ji suffered the loss of his left hand and leg when it was crushed under a train. President Trump gave a brief summary of both his struggle and his determination afterward, one that cannot help but inspire. We will leave it in its original context:
Finally … we are joined by one more witness to the ominous nature of this regime. His name is Mr. Ji Seong-ho.
In 1996, Seong-ho was a starving boy in North Korea. One day, he tried to steal coal from a railroad car to barter for a few scraps of food, which were very hard to get. In the process, he passed out on the train tracks, exhausted from hunger. He woke up as a train ran over his limbs. He then endured multiple amputations without anything to dull the pain or the hurt.
His brother and sister gave what little food they had to help him recover and ate dirt themselves, permanently stunting their own growth. Later, he was tortured by North Korean authorities after returning from a brief visit to China. His tormentors wanted to know if he’d met any Christians. He had, and he resolved after that to be free.
Seong-ho traveled thousands of miles on crutches all across China and Southeast Asia to freedom. Most of his family followed. His father was caught trying to escape and was tortured to death. Today he lives in Seoul, where he rescues other defectors, and broadcasts into North Korea what the regime fears most: the truth.
Today he has a new leg, but Seong-ho, I understand you still keep those old crutches as a reminder of how far you’ve come. Your great sacrifice is an inspiration to us all. Please. Thank you.
Seong-ho’s story is a testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom. It was that same yearning for freedom that nearly 250 years ago gave birth to a special place called America. It was a small cluster of colonies caught between a great ocean and a vast wilderness. It was home to an incredible people with a revolutionary idea, that they could rule themselves, that they could chart their own destiny, and that, together, they could light up the entire world.
That is what our country has always been about. That is what Americans have always stood for, always strived for, and always done.
Atop the dome of this Capitol stands the Statue of Freedom. She stands tall and dignified among the monuments to our ancestors who fought and lived and died to protect her. Monuments to Washington and Jefferson, and Lincoln and King. Memorials to the heroes of Yorktown and Saratoga, to young Americans who shed their blood on the shores of Normandy and the fields beyond. 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. This is the monument to the American people.
Full Transcript: Here
In a day and age where everything in politics seems to be driven by carving people into special interest groups, Trump went a very different direction.
Forbes writer Salvatore Babones said it this way:
In his speech, Trump moved straight from prosing Ji’s yearning to live in freedom into saying that the “same yearning for freedom” had given birth to the United States, directly linking the world’s freedom narratives to America’s. Trump talked specifically about individual freedoms, not group rights or nationalisms. His theme wasn’t so much “America first” as “freedom first.”
..Trump made Ji’s story an American story because it is a story of an individual pursuing freedom against overwhelming odds and over and above any particular political goal. Ji’s iconic crutch-raising was neither an act of defiance nor of provocation. In Trump’s telling, it wasn’t even directed at North Korea, though how Ji felt about it is only for himself to know.
Trump turned Ji’s crutches power into metaphor for the American ideal that free people can govern themselves, that they can “chart their own destiny.” It was the defining moment of Trump’s State of the Union address. Reaganesque in its grand simplicity, it could become the defining moment of Trump’s political comeback. If Trump really does want to “make American great again,” this rededication to the struggle for individual liberty is a great place to start.
Here is a little more about his harrowing experience:
Nor did Ji just lick his wounds and disappear into obscurity when he secured his own freedom.
Oh, and in answer to the question the Korean authorities ask, he not only MET Christians, but he became one himself.
He founded an organization dedicated to helping others gain that same freedom for themselves.
Now, Action, Unity, Human Rights
A little about what that group is doing in helping North Koreans escape to freedom, besides helping fund their escape:
Radio Broadcasts to North Korea
AUH is helping the youth of North Korea prepare for the future of a unified Korea by letting then hear about the lives and dreams their peers from North Korea have in South Korea, through the RFA and Far East Broadcasting Company(Geukdongbangsong).
Testifying on International Platforms
The victims of the human rights abuses testify about their experiences in various places such as the Oslo Freedom Forum, Australia, USA, UK, and UN Office at Geneva to resolve the humanitarian crisis North Koreans face.
He’s trying to build bridges and help reunify Korea. To extend the freedom he enjoys to others who don’t have it.
Trump pointed to something that the Democrats really don’t seem able to grasp.
The things that energize America, and make it great have everything to do with IDEAS and VALUES. When they go looking for those things wrapped in ‘interest groups’ and ‘race’ they will completely miss the point.
Which is probably why their side looked so sour through the whole SOTU.
Doug discusses the Democrats’ reaction to the State of the Union address:
Here’s a shirt for real men (and women, too):
Why be average? It’s so overrated.
Everyone does that.
If you don’t think so, add some more meat to your diet and read this while you wait for your steak to grill:
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