Thanks to our short attention span, Donald Trump’s recent controversies have drawn our focus away from the more worrying parts of his inaugural address. His speech was more than a roundabout statement of purpose. Rather, it was a declaration of a new America, with a redefined set of values.
In his closing words, Mr. Trump vowed to “make America strong again,” “wealthy again,” “proud again,” and “safe again.” These four pillars – strength, wealth, pride, and safety – are summed up in one word for him: greatness. Mr. Trump’s new American values make no mention of liberty, equality, or free enterprise. Instead, they present a version of America that places worth only on militance and material things, while espousing chauvinism and isolationism. Do we really want to let Donald Trump decide what it means to be American?
Over these next four years, we cannot rely on appeals to what America is not: not-racist, not-protectionist, not-belligerent, not-boorish. We need instead to reaffirm our nation’s guiding principles. If any stand is to be made for “real” American values, it cannot reject Mr. Trump’s narrative entirely. Strength and pride are part of what defines us, and wealth and safety are admirable goals. What we cannot lose in all of this is what Mr. Trump seems to have left out – our nation’s commitment to a free, egalitarian, and just society.
Our system of government has endured conflict and seismic social change, a testament to its design. Its endurance and brilliance therefore speak to the truths that are its foundation. The Constitution identifies Justice, Tranquility, Defense, Welfare, and the Blessings of Liberty as values worth protecting. The Declaration of Independence points to the natural rights of all to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. We cannot afford to confuse cynicism and pragmatism, abandoning these principles in the hopes of a quick fix to our problems without debate and compromise, or just wanting the government to “get stuff done.” Our government is bound to serve these profound ideals, no matter what precedents have been set by others, and no matter who holds authority.
-Michael Hauge '17