Activists and celebrities took over N.Y.C.’s Town Hall theater Monday evening to say their piece at the People’s State of the Union, sponsored in part by We Stand United, a show of resistance on the eve of Donald Trump’s first State of the Union on Jan. 30.
Actor Mark Ruffalo was one of the first to take the stage, thanking the millions of Americans who have taken action since Inauguration Day. “I know you haven’t been at a country club for half a year, huffing down cheeseburgers, sitting on a golden toilet waiting for someone to bring you a chocolate cake,” he joked, telling the audience, “We wanted to hear from the people who are actually working really hard for the positive vision of America—marching, rallying, organizing, calling, writing, tweeting, Facebooking, educating and caring for our country.”
Gloria Steinem announced that “Trump has been sent to us only to wake us up. He’ll only be remembered for the opposition to him."
Along with rousing speeches from organizers and politically active stars, the evening included emotional performances from Andra Day, Common, and Rufus Wainwright, who delivered a touching rendition of "Hallelujah," dedicated to the late Heather Heyer, who was killed in the Charlottesville attack last year.
Sex and the City alum Cynthia Nixon gave a rousing speech, saying “This has been a dark year for America. For those of us who value quaint concepts like equal rights for all, economic and racial justice, combating climate changes, many others, we have taken catastrophic steps backward."
“Democracy is like a muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it,” Nixon continued, encouraging citizens to take to the polls in 2018. “Fighting for our democracy is going to require all of us to step up and take action. Whether protesting anti-immigrant policies, organizing for women’s rights, refusing to give polluters our business, demonstrating against police violence, even taking the leap to run for office ourselves. In 2018, each one of us has to do everything we can to reclaim our democracy from foreign and domestic threats that aim to imperil it. It is on us. There’s no cavalry coming—we are the cavalry. If we want our democracy back, we have to get out there ourselves and seize it.”
The recurring theme that emerged was a simple call to action: Vote. Documentarian Michael Moore urged those in attendance not just to vote themselves but to recruit non-voters to take to the polls. “These people aren’t apathetic; they’re angry,” he said of the 100 million U.S. citizens who didn’t vote in the 2016 election. “They’re not ignorant, they’ve been ignored. They’re not lazy; they’re livid, so much so that they just said f—k it to the whole system.”
“I want everyone to make this one simple commitment over the next 10 months,” Moore proposed. “I want you to identify 20 people who did not vote in the 2016 election and get them all to the polls on election day, November 6.”