Donald Trump delivered a remarkable speech in Warsaw Thursday, as thousands of free Poles chanted the American president’s name. He praised his hosts for their courage and sacrifice across generations in defense of Polish independence and the liberty of the people – and reminded them that Americans are their allies in that unending struggle. “Our two countries share a special bond forged by unique histories and national characters,” the president said. “It’s a fellowship that exists only among people who have fought and bled and died for freedom.”
Trump recalled the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 in defiance of the Nazis. He talked at length about the decades-long struggle against communism and suffocating oppression by the Soviet Union. He spoke movingly of Pope John Paul II’s 1979 sermon in Warsaw, when “a million Polish men, women and children suddenly raised their voices in a single prayer. A million Polish people did not ask for wealth. They did not ask for privilege. Instead, 1 million Poles saying three simple words: ‘We want God.’ In those words, the Polish people recalled the promise of a better future. … Their message is as true today as ever. The people of Poland, the people of America and the people of Europe still cry out, ‘We want God.'”
Trump’s speech should – but probably won’t – lay to rest any remaining concerns about his willingness to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The American president explicitly affirmed this country’s commitment, through NATO’s Article V, to defend Poland from attacks. He applauded the Poles for deciding to acquire and deploy America’s “battle-tested Patriot air and missile system,” and he pledged to help Poland gain better “access to alternative sources of energy, so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy” – a direct threat to Russia’s dominating share of Eastern Europe’s natural gas market. For good measure, Trump also deplored Russia’s destabilizing activities in Ukraine and its support for “hostile regimes – including Syria and Iran.”
Some Trump critics claimed his Warsaw speech was “dark” or “divisive” or grounded in “white grievance.” Their criticism says little about the president’s vision, but much about many critics’ growing blindness. It’s time for them to open their eyes and attempt to re-acquaint themselves with reality.
The president’s speech was a clear and unmistakable call to embrace and defend the foundational principles of representative democracy, universal civil rights, dynamic free enterprise, and unquestioned individual liberty.
“Americans, Poles and nations of Europe value freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to confront forces, whether they come inside or out, from the south or the east, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are. …
“We reward brilliance, we strive for excellence, and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God. We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression.
“We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success.
“We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives.
“And we debate everything. We challenge everything. We seek to know everything, so that we can better know ourselves.
“And above all, we value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom. …
“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it? We can have the largest economies and the most lethal weapons anywhere on Earth, but if we do not have strong families and strong values, then we will be weak and we will not survive.”
In Warsaw, Trump explained America’s core values with an impassioned clarity that few recent presidents have matched. It was encouraging to see him rise to an occasion – rather than merely create a sensation – and his doing so kindled a hope that perhaps he really can grow into his office. Trump spoke like a statesman. Nothing would reassure America’s allies (and defang his critics) more than for him to make a habit of it.
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