Trump Thanks Ex-Prisoner 'For Reminding Us That We Always Have the Power to Shape Our Own Destiny'

By Susan Jones | February 6, 2019 | 5:16 AM EST

Alice Johnson, who had her life prison sentence commuted by President Donald Trump, was one of the president's invited guests at Tuesday's State of the Union address. (Photo: Screen capture)

( - President Trump drew tears from Alice Johnson, one of his invited guests at Tuesday's State of the Union address, when he thanked her for "reminding us that we always have the power to shape our own destiny."

"Just weeks ago," Trump said, "both parties united for groundbreaking, criminal justice reform. They said it couldn't be done."

He then turned to Johnson:

Last year, I heard through friends, the story of Alice Johnson.

I was deeply moved. In 1997, Alice was sentenced to life in prison as a first time, nonviolent drug offender. Over the next 22 years, she became a prison minister, inspiring others to choose a better path. She had a big impact on that prison population and far beyond.

Alice's story underscores the disparities and unfairness that can exist in criminal sentencing and the need to remedy this total injustice. She served almost that 22 years and had expected to be in prison for the remainder of her life.

In June, I commuted Alice's sentence. When I saw Alice's beautiful family greet her at the prison gates, hugging and kissing and crying and laughing, I knew I did something right. Alice is with us tonight, and she is a terrific woman. Terrific.

Alice, thank you for reminding us that we always have the power to shape our own destiny.

Even the Democrats applauded.

Moments later, the president singled out another guest -- a Tennessee man named Matthew Charles who, in 1996 at the age of 30, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for selling drugs.

He turned his life around in prison, Trump explained, and was the first person to be released under the First Step Act.

"America is a nation that believes in redemption," Trump said as he welcomed Matthew home.

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