On Sept. 24, President Donald Trump delivered a measured speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Ever the showman who usually likes to go off-script, Trump was almost painfully presidential – the UN, after all, is not the forum for off-the-cuff remarks. The speech was wide-ranging, but the overriding theme was the importance of national pride and sovereignty to every country. “The future,” Trump told the assembly, “does not belong to globalists.”
In addition to providing an overview of America’s foreign policy challenges, the president berated China for its unfair trade practices and its violation of obligations made to the people of Hong Kong. He called for the empowerment of women and for the rights of the LGBT community to be protected.
Adversaries Singled Out
Taking aim at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for admitting China, Trump pointed out that 60,000 American factories have closed since China became a member-state. “The World Trade Organization needs drastic change,” the president said. “The second-largest economy in the world should not be permitted to declare itself a developing country in order to game the system at others’ expense.”
Trump also singled out the governments of Iran and Venezuela. Of the former, the president made it clear that US sanctions would not be lifted while the Iranian government continues its aggressive behavior. At the same time, the US leader expressed sympathy and support for the Iranian people. Such a distinction is important.
Of Venezuela’s dictator, Nicolas Maduro – whose role as that country’s legitimate leader is now in dispute – Trump said: “[He] is a Cuban puppet, protected by Cuban bodyguards, hiding from his own people while Cuba plunders Venezuela’s oil wealth to sustain its own corrupt communist rule.”
Expanding on the issue of the Venezuelan government’s catastrophic political and economic policies, Trump warned that “one of the most serious challenges our countries face is the spectrum of socialism,” which he described as “the wrecker of nations and destroyer of societies.”
The Injustice of Illegal Mass Migration
The president also devoted part of his address to the issue of mass illegal immigration. Acknowledging that this was not just an American problem but a global one, Trump told the gathering that every country has the right to secure its own borders. He had a direct message, though, for open-borders activists whom he accused of cloaking themselves “in the rhetoric of social justice”:
“Your policies are not just. Your policies are cruel and evil. You are empowering criminal organizations that prey on innocent men, women, and children. You put your own false sense of virtue before the lives, well-being in [sic] countless innocent people.”
It is indeed ironic that the same people who champion the alleged right of people from Central America to flow unchecked into the United States also feign concern for the economic deprivation that exists in those countries from which these migrants are coming. Trump made the counterpoint in succinct fashion: “[T]hese nations cannot reach their potential if a generation of youth abandon their homes in search of a life elsewhere.”
A Jab at Domestic US Politics
In a continuation of the anti-globalist, sovereign-nations theme, Trump warned against totalitarianism and the erosion of democracy and individual freedoms. “We must always be skeptical of those who want conformity and control,” he told the assembly. “Even in free nations, we see alarming signs and new challenges to liberty.”
In what seemed to be a thinly veiled reference to the efforts of Democrats and left-wing activists in the US to reverse the result of the 2016 presidential election, the Commander-in-Chief went on: “A permanent political class is openly disdainful, dismissive, and defiant of the will of the people.”
He was not done. Though it would have been entirely inappropriate to openly call out his political opponents, Trump dwelt on the topic while presenting it as a problem faced by all free nations – which, in fact, it is:
“A faceless bureaucracy operates in secret and weakens democratic rule. Media and academic institutions push flat-out assaults on our histories, traditions, and values … a free society must not allow social media giants to silence the voices of the people and a free people must never, ever be enlisted in the cause of silencing, coercing, canceling, or blacklisting their own neighbors.”
Still on the subject of individual liberty, the president also warned the UN that Americans would not be deprived of their Second Amendment rights: “There is no circumstance,” he warned, “under which the United States will allow international actors to trample on the rights of our citizens, including the right to self-defense.” To emphasize the point, the president reminded the assembly that America would not ratify the UN Arms Trade Treaty.
To close his address, the president delivered to the gathered world leaders and ambassadors a message of unity, peace, and recognition that, like the US, every country in the world should, first and foremost, act in the interests of its own people. “Lift up your nations,” he told them, “cherish your culture, honor your histories, treasure your citizens, make your country strong and prosperous and righteous. Honor the dignity of your people and nothing will be outside of your reach.”