President Donald Trump brought his special brand of Americanism to the European Continent on Wednesday. Even to his harshest critics, of whom there are many, there were no shallow platitudes in his words to the Polish people.
There was a strangely different tone than that of his predecessor Barack Obama. There were no empty words or promises that could never be fulfilled. This was a leader who was not going to sit back and dither awaiting the latest polling figures.
His speech in front of the monument to the 1944 ghetto uprising fighters was appropriate for the somberness of the location. There was a profundity and understanding of the world that President Trump displayed in remarks delivered Thursday in Warsaw, Poland.
Trump has a rare understanding of ideas and principles that matter to people. It goes beyond the threat of bombs or false assurances. One comes away from the sincerity feeling this man means what he says whether it strikes a chord of popularity or not.
Where better than Poland to deliver such a message? It is a nation that has been confronted time and again with existential threats, and survived. They represent the survival of the West, even if Europe doesn’t realize they must fight to keep their way of life.
Trump asserted that the West is confronted by enemies within. Europeans may not understand that, but they must fight for today. He mentioned Islamic terrorism forthright without mincing his words. Either stop the spread of this Satanism today, or risk losing all you hold dear in your civilization tomorrow.
The president said, “Our own fight for the West does not begin on the battlefield, it begins with our minds, our wills, and our souls. Today, the ties that unite our civilization are no less vital, and demand no less defense, than that bare shred of land on which the hope of Poland once totally rested. Our freedom, our civilization, and our survival depend on these bonds of history, culture, and memory.”
Trump noted the heavy sacrifices the Poles have made under both Nazi and communist regimes. “I am here today not just to visit an old ally, but to hold it up as an example for others who seek freedom and who wish to summon the courage and the will to defend our civilization. The story of Poland is the story of a people who have never lost hope, who have never been broken, and who have never, ever forgotten who they are.”
It was abundantly clear the president was utilizing the Polish people as a metaphor for the West’s struggle ahead. “And that is the crux of the problem we face now. That we are abandoning our values, the very Western civilization that made us great, and which is the only thing that will rally us to defend ourselves. Poland survived because it didn’t shed its culture, including belief in God,” the president said.
Trump invoked the memory of President John F. Kennedy citing a passage from his “Let them come to Berlin” speech on the Berlin Wall. He equated it with the Poles. He termed it, “A nation that has survived by standing for its values.”
The president challenged his worldwide audience. ” … our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will. Because as the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have. The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.”
But very much like President Reagan was so adept at, he made it personal for each listener. “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. If anyone forgets the critical importance of these things, let them come to one country that never has. Let them come to Poland. And let them come here, to Warsaw, and learn the story of the Warsaw Uprising.”
Trump pounded away at Islamic terrorism, words never spoken in the Obama administration. “Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from 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.”
“The West,” Trump declared, “will succeed.”
This was no ordinary speech filled with promises that cannot be kept. It was a plea to the lethargic Europeans to stand up and be counted. This was not a speech of empty platitudes about how we can all get along. It is a fight we are all in together.