The speech touched broadly on the populist and nationalist themes of Trump’s campaign without delving deeply into policy.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump sought to rally a divided nation behind his nationalist agenda Tuesday, outlining goals to reform the tax code, overhaul the health-care system and secure the country in a sweeping speech that was high on ambition but often short on details.

The new president used his first address to a joint session of Congress to cast his short tenure so far as a series of promises made and kept to working Americans, and then went on to make more. He vowed to deliver changes that would “raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars and make our communities safer for everyone.”

“When we fulfill this vision … we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American greatness began,” he said.

The address, which replaces a State of the Union speech during a president’s first year in office, provided Trump with the biggest stage to date to sell his agenda to a public that remains sharply divided over his presidency. Aides stressed in advance that one of his primary goals was to try to unite the country, and Trump opened his address with his most expansive condemnation of acts of violence and vandalism motivated by religious and racial bigotry.

“We may be a nation divided on policies; we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” he said, denouncing the spate of bomb threats to Jewish community centers around the country and a shooting of two Indian men last week in Kansas that’s being investigated as a hate crime.

Trump called his message one of “unity and strength,” drawing on a “renewal of the American spirit.”

The unity that matters in the short term, though, would be among the Republicans who hold majorities in the House and Senate as well as the White House for the first time in a decade.

Trump’s calls for “historic tax reform,” replacing President Barack Obama’s signature health law and reorienting America’s foreign policy will rise or fall on the GOP’s ability to come together on the finer points of each complicated policy matter.

The speech touched broadly on the populist and nationalist themes of Trump’s campaign without delving deeply into policy. Aides said the text was informed by the union workers, coal miners and other working people he has met in his early days in the White House, a period that has also included numerous meetings with wealthy business executives.

For too long, Trump said, the American middle class shrank as jobs moved overseas. Inner cities struggled and infrastructure crumbled as the nation’s leaders instead focused on defending “the borders of other nations” and “spent trillions of dollars overseas.”

His election, Trump said, was “an earthquake” resulting from the nation’s “quiet voices” rising up, and he promised to deliver on their behalf.

“Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people,” he said.

Trump, whose White House operation matches his penchant for improvisation and uncertainty, continued to float new policy ideas for the speech in the final hours before its delivery, including the possibility that he might advocate for a comprehensive immigration overhaul or human space travel.

In his remarks, Trump challenged opponents who have bristled at his aggressive approach to tackling illegal immigration, including his “great, great” border wall. What, he asked, would they say to an American family that “loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?”

But he also said he believed that “real and positive immigration reform is possible,” suggesting openness to an immigration system that would allow more skilled workers to enter.

Republicans’ first priority was developing the plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, passed nearly seven years ago when a Democratic president similarly had a Congress dominated by his own party.

Trump said the plan “was never the right solution for America,” and now was “collapsing” before us.

In its place, he promised a system that would make insurance available to more people by focusing on lowering its cost, with five overarching goals — including ensuring access for Americans with pre-existing conditions — that would lead to a “stable transition” from the current system.

“We must act decisively to protect all Americans,” he said. “Action is not a choice, it is a necessity.”

Democrats roundly criticized the president’s address as one that only deepened the national divide and demonstrated that Trump’s campaign promise to champion the forgotten man had itself been dismissed.

Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, chosen to deliver the party’s official response, said Trump’s early actions showed he was “Wall Street’s champion,” before turning to defend Obama’s health-care overhaul that he said had been a revelation to his conservative-leaning state.

“Mr. President, folks here in Kentucky expect you to keep your word. Because this isn’t a game, it’s life and death for people,” he said.

Trump spoke to Congress one day after outlining a budget plan that called for a $54 billion increase in military spending — or about 10 percent — coupled with an equal reduction in nondefense domestic spending.

While seeking to enhance the nation’s military might and vowing to “extinguish this vile enemy” — the Islamic State group — he also signaled a new approach to addressing global threats, saying the U.S. should “learn from the mistakes of the past” that have only worsened unrest in many regions, particularly the Mideast.

“My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America,” he said. “But we know that America is better off when there is less conflict — not more.”

Trump offered little indication of what cuts might be necessary to offset the new spending, and fellow Republicans have already expressed opposition to potential cuts to foreign aid, among other programs.

Trump promised “massive tax relief” for the middle class, and other changes that he said would “restart the engine of the American economy.”

‘Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed,” he said.

He has also said he will rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, airports and other broken-down infrastructure, another costly program that he has linked to economic growth.

Although Trump’s trade policy and spending plans are at odds with some in his party, he is united with traditional conservatives on education. Trump called for a new education law that would spend more on charter- and voucher-school programs, an issue that has already marshaled strong opposition from teachers unions that failed in their effort to stop the confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

“Education is the civil-rights issue of our time,” he said.

Education is key to ending a cycle of poverty, Trump said, a goal also required to end the cycle of violence.

As he has often in both his campaign and as president, Trump drew attention to the high rate of shootings in Chicago — 4,000 last year — as part of an unacceptable increase in violent crime that requires greater cooperation and respect for law enforcement.

“We must build bridges of cooperation and trust — not drive the wedge of disunity and division,” he said.

Trump, who campaigned as a norm-shattering change agent, has framed the early part of his term with a series of quickly executed orders and actions intended to gut regulations, halt trade deals, ban travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. and crack down on immigrants who came into the country illegally. While the orders have had varying degrees of effect — the travel ban was blocked by the courts — they have sent a strong message that Trump plans to move aggressively on his agenda.

Trump highlighted that resolve Tuesday, reinforcing his message that illegal immigration poses a dire threat to security and the economy. Among his guests seated by his wife, Melania, in the House gallery: three Californians whose relatives were killed by people who were in the U.S. illegally.

Many Democrats, including ones from California, chose guests to make their own pointed criticisms of the new administration’s policies — people in the U.S. illegally, Americans who benefited from Obama’s health-care overhaul and refugees affected by Trump’s travel ban.

And while Republicans in the chamber offered consistent and robust ovations for Trump’s remarks, Democrats made a silent and symbolic protest across the aisle. Many female Democrats, including the majority of the women in California’s delegation, wore white, the color the suffragettes wore as they fought for the right to vote. It was also the color that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wore at major campaign events, and at Trump’s inauguration.