At the UN General Assembly today, President Trump presented a defense of sovereignty and “security without apology.”
While outlining how “America will always act in our national interest,” he also invoked leaders of the past.
“…our thoughts turn to the same question that ran through all their speeches and resolutions, through every word and every hope. It is the question of what kind of world will we leave for our children and what kind of nations they will inherit.”
Some of those leaders directly addressed the importance of looking at the world through the lens of realism.
Today, Trump today called it “principled realism.”
But he was upstaged decades ago when President Reagan addressed the 40th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1985 and offered a more principled version of principled realism.
“The painful truth is that the use of violence to take, to exercise, and to preserve power remains a persistent reality in much of the world. The vision of the U.N. Charter — to spare succeeding generations this scourge of war — remains real. It still stirs our soul and warms our hearts, but it also demands of us a realism that is rock-hard, clear-eyed, steady, and sure — a realism that understands the nations of the United Nations are not united. I come before you this morning preoccupied with peace, with ensuring that the differences between some of us not be permitted to degenerate into open conflict, and I come offering for my own country a new commitment, a fresh start.”
Rather than framing realism defensively as Trump did today, Reagan went on the offensive and made the case for freedom.
…What kind of people will we be 40 years from today? May we answer: free people, worthy of freedom and firm in the conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a chosen few, but the universal right of all God's children. This is the universal declaration of human rights set forth in 1948, and this is the affirming flame the United States has held high to a watching world. We champion freedom not only because it is practical and beneficial but because it is morally right and just. Free people whose governments rest upon the consent of the governed do not wage war on their neighbors. Free people blessed by economic opportunity and protected by laws that respect the dignity of the individual are not driven toward the domination of others.
…Life and the preservation of freedom to live it in dignity is what we are on this Earth to do. Everything we work to achieve must seek that end so that some day our prime ministers, our premiers, our presidents, and our general secretaries will talk not of war and peace, but only of peace. We've had 40 years to begin. Let us not waste one more moment to give back to the world all that we can in return for this miracle of life.”
In seven years, we’ll mark the date that Reagan looked forward to – the 80th session of the UN General Assembly.
What kind of people will be in 2025? Will we go down the path that Trump outlined, and “choose a future of patriotism, prosperity, and pride?”
Or will we worry less about the definition of sovereignty and more about championing freedom?
We’ve got less than a decade to hit the target and live up to our ideals.
As Reagan would put it, let’s not waste one more moment.