WASHINGTON – Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York – the lone Democrat to speak at President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration Friday – delivered a subtle rebuke to the new commander in chief, reveling in America’s diversity.
Speaking moments before Trump took to the podium in front of the U.S. Capitol, Schumer paid tribute to a host of groups that may have felt insulted at one point or another during Trump’s campaign for the presidency – be they Muslims, immigrants or the disabled.
“Whatever our race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity; whether we are immigrant or native-born; whether we live with disabilities or do not; in wealth or in poverty; we are all exceptional in our commonly held yet fierce devotion to our country, and in our willingness to sacrifice our time, energy, and even our lives to making it a more perfect union,” Schumer said.
Now Senate minority leader, Schumer said this is a challenging time for the country thanks to a quickly changing world, an economy that leaves many behind “and a politics frequently consumed by rancor.”
“In such times, faith in our government, our institutions, and even in our country can erode,” Schumer said. “Despite these challenges, I stand here today confident in this great country for one reason: you, the American people.”
Noting the American people have traditionally been optimistic, Schumer vowed to fight for American principles.
“Every day, we stand up for core democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution: the rule of law, equal protection for all under the law, the freedom of speech, press, and religion -- the things that make America America,” he said.
Schumer ended his speech by talking about a letter from a Union soldier in the Civil War named Sullivan Ballou.
Writing to his wife, Ballou – who was killed in the war weeks after writing the letter – wrote: “If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter.”
Hearing that, political observers deemed Schumer’s speech a challenge to Trump.
“Sen. Chuck Schumer delivering the pre-Trump-address rebuttal,” tweeted Dylan Byers of CNN.
Alternet, a left-wing blog, reveled in the fact that Schumer "threw some unexpected shade at Donald Trump."
But Red State, a conservative blog, lamented “Schumer’s incredibly partisan, bitter speech.”
And, upon hearing Schumer’s message, many in the fiercely pro-Trump crowd booed.