President Donald Trump did more than defy his critics with his memorable Fourth of July address from the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday evening.
He likely established what will become an annual tradition — one later presidents, decades from now, will continue to observe.
And he gave the American people the tribute that we have long deserved, but which we have somehow been unable, until now, to give ourselves, too afraid to pass along to the next generation.
The president’s opponents said that his revamped Fourth of July celebrations smacked of authoritarianism. They said that the ceremonial use of tanks in a parade, as well as the flyovers from every branch of the U.S. armed forces, were somehow un-American — even though they had certainly been used before.
They said it was the height of narcissism for Trump to deliver a speech on Independence Day, that he would be turning the day into campaign commercial.
Former vice president Joe Biden said, prior to the speech, that the event had been “designed more to stroke Trump’s ego than celebrate American ideals.” (This from a politician who served under Barack Obama, who not only made virtually every speech about himself, but dared to re-design the presidential seal in his own image.)
Biden could not have been more wrong. Trump’s speech was all about the country — its heroes, its people, and its democratic ideals.
Trump, in the rain, addressed the nation and re-told the heroic story of its founding. “With a single sheet of parchment, and 56 signatures, America began the greatest political journey in human history,” Trump said, recalling the battles that followed to secure the freedom for which the Founders had fought.
He went on to tell the story of American success — not just in politics and war, but also in science, medicine, technology, industry, exploration, culture, and civil rights.
Trump boldly spoke the truths that have been suppressed in our media and on our campuses. His speech was not only moving, but necessary. The history he related, and the achievements he celebrated, are unknown to a generation raised to see our country as flawed, if not evil.
The New York Times declares today that America is not the “greatest,” but “just OK”; Vice tells readers America “has always been bad.” That is the new poisonous orthodoxy; Trump provided the antidote.
More than that, Trump celebrated the ordinary people who constantly renew our country’s potential.
He acknowledged Tina “Angel” Belcher, who “turns her tiny kitchen into a disaster relief center” for hurricane victims; he thanked Sister Deidre Byrne for aiding the wounded on September 11, 2001; he honored Clarence Henderson, who led the historic sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960; he also praised the suffragette movement.
Trump thanked the military, and law enforcement, and Gold Star families. And he offered a moving tribute to each of the five branches of the armed forces, recounting the history of each, noting its greatest deeds.
The military band sang and played the song of each branch as its aircraft flew overhead. Trump used the opportunity to urge young Americans to join the armed forces: how often has any president made such a direct appeal, against such a moving backdrop?
This was not a political speech: it was a patriotic milestone. Trump invited us to celebrate our country — boldly and explicitly. It was, somehow, something previous presidents were too timid to do.
When Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, it took a visiting leader, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to urge us to celebrate, weeks later.
No longer. This is the greatness Donald Trump promised to restore. Future presidents will bear a duty to do the same.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.