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The State Of The Union, On The Corner Of Mineral Spring And Smithfield Ave

President Donald Trump delivers his second State of Union address Tuesday from Washington D.C. The speech comes on the heels of a record-breaking government shutdown, a divided Congress, the emerging challenges of 2020.

All of which give citizens a mixed opinion of the state of the union, including from one tiny corner of the country.

Where do you go to take the pulse of a neighborhood? One option: a busy intersection in Pawtucket with a doughnut shop, a grocery store, a liquor store, and a bank. it’s the convergence of food, booze, coffee and cash, along with plenty of people willing to share their thoughts on the future of the country.

Here’s what I found: plenty of people don’t have much faith in the government.

“Everybody is on their individual struggles,” said Charm Howie, sitting on a sleek electric bike in the Dunkin' Donuts parking lot. “And I think those things are not really being addressed. We’re like the ants, and they’re the big foot.”

Howie is from Providence. Howie has a college degree and he wanted to be a police officer. But right now, he says his life isn’t where he hoped it would be.

“I was born and raised here,” Howie said. “Did good, stayed out of trouble, and here I am riding a bike. I’m not against bikes but this is the reality of it. I wanted to have a house by now, have my family settled.”

Howie was chatting with Pawtucket resident Jesse Botelho, who was holding a coffee cup standing near his own bike, a black and chrome motorcycle. Botelho’s big issue is the economy, and specifically, climbing the economic ladder.

“It’s always been that way, like you go to school to get an education to better yourself and get a better job to make more money, to live the American dream and you’re not seeing that as much anymore,” Botelho said.

Botelho works in construction and said he owns several motorcycles. He said he thinks people are less willing to lend a helping hand these days.

“You’re seeing more greed than ever,” Botelho said. “Everybody’s cutting everybody’s throats to get that better position, or that bigger house and to get that fancier car.”

A rotating group of people can be found hanging out in front of the liquor store across the street, chatting with people as they go in and out. And here’s something else. Inevitably, the conversation turns to President Trump.

Pawtucket resident, and immigrant Maria Dennis is a big fan.

“Because he’s making changes and he’s making changes the right way.” Dennis said.

In fact, she said her whole family voted for Trump. She’s an immigrant, came here legally she said.

“He’s trying to build the wall, I was telling these guys right here that, American people should be served before anyone else,” Dennis said. “I came here when I was seven. Worked two jobs and this and that, and these guys right here they deserve a home. And Trump’s doing a wonderful job.”

Raymond Walmsley disagrees. He was one of the guys hanging out in front of the liquor store, and one of the people Dennis was chatting with. Why?

“He’s trying to run the country, like a business,” Walmsley said. “Okay, the country’s not a business. The country is for the people. He’s not working for the people, he’s working for himself.”

Among Walmsley’s concerns: poverty and homelessness, the recent government shutdown, and the Mexican border wall. All issues the President’s critics have already pounced on.

Despite political differences, most people on the intersection say there are signs of hope. Including charity between friends and strangers, and a little camaraderie too, said motorcyclist Jesse Botelho.

“Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of good people out there,” Botelho said. “When you can find them, you stay around them. I’ve always been a big believer in that.”

The State of Union address is an opportunity for the President to deliver a progress report of sorts on the country. It’s also an opportunity for people to deliver one to him. 

And a view from the South Coast of Massachusetts

At the Wal-Mart superstore on State Road in Dartmouth, shoppers offered their thoughts on the state of the union today.

“I’m always an optimistic person,” said Victor Rodriguez, a Walmart employee. “I can see the silver linings in any situation.

Rodriguez said he’s seen the economy improve, at least locally.

“As far as income, I notice that there’s been a rise in it,” Rodriguez said. “Especially with Walmart, they’re trying to help us out. I know the economy’s doing a lot better.”

71-year-old retiree Edith Ventura had her own thoughts about the current state of our government, saying she sees serious issues in both parties.

“Not just the President, but the Republican party and some of the democrats too, it’s like they’re all out for themselves,” Ventura said. “There’s too much of that. They’re not thinking of the people.”

Ventura comes from a family she describes as “very patriotic.” She feels that the changes brought about by the current administration are tarnishing her overall positive view of the nation.

“This is a great country,” Ventura said. “We don’t need to make it greater than it is. It’s already great. We should just get along with each other, take care of the people who need to be taken care of.”

To Jim Lagavich, a US Army veteran, some of those people include low-income individuals struggling to climb out of financial hardship.

“I want to see a little more reeducation happening to empower people to go back out and basically get back to work,” Lagavich said.

And for a few younger people, affordable healthcare is a top priority.

“People getting insurance, and healthcare, people that really need money to pay for their medical bills,” said Jelenga Suqueira, a 16-year-old student in the nursing program at New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School.

Suqueira said she believes ordinary citizens do have the power to change things.

“I think, in a way, we kind of are divided. And I think, by each separate community working together, we can all unite as one.”

Editor's note, a previous version of this article misidentified the date of the State of the Union as Thursday. It was, in fact, Tuesday.

The State Of The Union, On The Corner Of Mineral Spring And Smithfield Ave
The State Of The Union, On The Corner Of Mineral Spring And Smithfield Ave