By Jesse Byrnes
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Tuesday evening warned Americans not to follow the “angriest voices” in politics as she delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address.
“During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation," Haley said.
Elsewhere in the address, Haley panned Obama as falling short of his own "soaring words" before touching on threats facing the country, including terrorism.
The GOP response has been a fraught assignment for Republicans in the past, with several rising stars struggling to match the pomp and circumstance of Obama’s address to a packed congressional chamber.
Haley, who is seen by many as a potential vice presidential candidate for the GOP this year, largely avoided any major flubs. The speech gave her a chance to talk about her family history and introduce herself to the nation.
"I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every day how blessed we were to live in this country," Haley said.
“My story is really not much different from millions of other Americans. Immigrants have been coming to our shores for generations to live the dream that is America," she added.
Haley pivoted from her background to a broader warning against shunning immigrants based on where they come from.
“No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country," Haley added, speaking slowly and with emphasis.
Trump has dominated much of the political discussion since last summer, in part by pushing to build a wall on the nation's southern border to keep out immigrants and deporting those in the U.S. illegally.
His plan last month to bar Muslims from the U.S. amid stoked fears of terrorism also sparked controversy, and was widely denounced by Republicans including Haley who called it "un-American" and "just wrong."
Obama also used his speech Tuesday night to push back on Trump, saying, "This is not a matter of political correctness.This is a matter of understanding just what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith."
Democrats have hoped to seize on Trump's remarks heaving into the election. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) garnered headlines for saying Haley was selected to deliver the GOP response on Tuesday because of the Republicans' "diversity problem."
Haley is the third female Republican to deliver the address in as many years, following House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) in 2014 and freshman Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa) last year.
The South Carolina governor won bipartisan praise for her handling of the June 2015 massacre at a black church in Charleston and the subsequent debate over removing the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds.
"In many parts of society today, whether in popular culture, academia, the media, or politics, there’s a tendency to falsely equate noise with results," Haley said during her speech.
“Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying," she said.