Philadelphia council member provides SOTU with official WFP response

Nicolas O’Rourke introduced himself to a national audience on Thursday evening, delivering Labour’s official response to President Biden’s State of the Union address.

“Each year, WFP selects one leader to provide our perspective on the State of the Union. Tonight, that voice is mine,” O’Rourke said, beginning his nearly 20-minute response.

“Philadelphians, including WFP voters, helped put Joe Biden in office in 2020. Tonight we have a message for the President: Together, we have made history in providing resources and opportunities to working people and communities. But this work is not just unfinished. It is at risk,” he said.

“The wars in Palestine and Trump’s immigration policies are inconsistent with our values ​​and threaten the coalition that elected you. A coalition that needs to be reunited. But here’s the good news: there is still time to unite this coalition if you heed the citizens’ calls.”

O’Rourke was part of WFP’s historic victory in Philadelphia in November, joining fellow WFP member Kendra Brooks on the Council, leaving Republicans without an at-large member for the first time in contemporary history.

In his rebuttal, he also spoke specifically about issues affecting Philadelphia.

“I speak with urgency because my city’s needs are urgent,” he said. “The roots of poverty hit children hardest. Our children can’t breathe. Air pollution causes 21% of pediatric asthma cases in Philadelphia, almost four times the national rate. Our murder rates have dropped since the pandemic, but Philadelphia saw over four hundred violent deaths last year and horrific shootings this week.”

Although WFP is much more closely aligned with Democrats than Republicans, there has been friction between Democrats and WFP members, both at the local and national levels. Last month, Philadelphia Democratic precinct volunteers were fired from their positions after supporting WFP candidates in the November election. The split has raised questions about whether President Biden’s chances in Pennsylvania could be damaged if WFP supporters stop working or don’t push the Democratic nominee with the same energy at all.

“You know, it remains to be seen who WFP will ultimately support in the race. But I can guarantee you it won’t be Donald John Trump,” O’Rourke told WHYY’s Studio 2 on Thursday before SOTU.

Two key issues highlight the rift between the Biden administration and WFP: immigration and the conflict between Israel and Gaza.

“I think a ceasefire is the least we need,” O’Rourke said Thursday afternoon. “For us, this is not something that we even think should be considered controversial. This is a call for peace.”

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