National Politics

Why is a Fort Worth Democrat going to see President Trump?

Charmion Johnson-Polk can’t wait for Tuesday night.

That evening, the longtime Fort Worth Democrat — a retired teacher — will sit in the balcony over the U.S. House of Representatives chamber, watching President Donald Trump give his first State of the Union address.

“I am crazy excited,” said Johnson-Polk, known by many for founding the Original King Kids of America, a youth group that for years sang hymns and spirituals and recited Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speeches. “It’s a historic moment for me.”

True, she’s a Democrat, invited by U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, to attend the event.

And Trump is a Republican whose one year in office has been riddled by a variety of controversies.

But Johnson-Polk said his speech is a moment in history that she doesn’t want to miss.

“I am very critical of [Trump], but I’m not going to be missing this opportunity,” the 76-year-old said. “I am going in with an open mind.

“Of course I hope he will speak about bringing the country together.”

For the most part, friends and family have been happy that Johnson-Polk has the chance to see the president’s address in person.

“Ninety-five percent of the people who find out I was invited say, ‘You better go, girl.’ That’s an historic moment,” she said. “The others say, ‘Oh, you’re going to hear Trump. I don’t want to hear him.’

“I tell them Trump did not send for me,” she said. “Marc Veasey did. He could have chosen anybody to invite and he chose me.”

Veasey said he felt that he needed to use his one ticket to the event to invite Johnson-Polk to join him.

“As a teacher and someone who started the King Kids, and is really well known and well respected in Fort Worth, I wanted her to have the opportunity to go if she wanted to,” Veasey said.

Tuesday address

Trump’s first State of the Union — which will begin around 8 p.m. Tuesday — gives the president a chance to discuss the agenda for his second year in office.

“With his limited vocabulary and topics, I have no idea what he might say,” Johnson-Polk said. “I wish he would talk about getting along with people.

“He needs to read some of Dr. King’s books about getting along and love,” she said. “I taught kids that if they want to be politicians, they have to respect what other people think. I want them to learn about loving and and respecting people and not downgrading anyone.”

Johnson-Polk said her whirlwind overnight trip to Washington, D.C., includes watching a tour of the Capitol and a reception. She said she’s excited to meet House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, among others, at the reception.

Tarrant County Republican Party Chair Tim O’Hare didn’t seem surprised that Johnson-Polk was attending the speech.

“America is a collection of different people with different views,” he said.

Tarrant County Democratic Party Chair Deborah Peoples said she’s glad Johnson-Polk is going.

“I think it’s good for people to hear what he says,” she said. “I clearly am not going. But it’s a citizen’s right to go.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

State of the Union

President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver his first State of the Union address at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The speech, delivered in the U.S. House of Representatives chamber, will be broadcast on network and cable television and streamlined live on channels such as C-SPAN.

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