When politicians and commentators lecture Americans about how some behavior or idea “is not who we are,” two things are typically certain. First, they’re trying to bully you into supporting their political goals. Second, they’re grossly distorting American history to fit their own preconceived notions.
But when President TrumpDonald John TrumpBrad Pitt quips he has more time to give Oscars speech than John Bolton had to testify Trump under pressure to renew last nuke treaty with Russia Trump to request 6 percent domestic cuts in .8 trillion budget MORE declared during his third State of the Union address on Tuesday that “the American nation was carved out of the vast frontier by the toughest, strongest, fiercest, and most determined men and women ever to walk on the face of the Earth,” there’s no doubt that he’s more concerned about who Americans are than who we aren’t.
Again and again during Donald Trump’s candidacy — and even more throughout his presidency — Democrats have alleged that his policies, statements, or actions are “not who we are.” They act as though enforcing the law, or pursuing popular policies that were uncontroversial and bipartisan as recently as the Clinton administration, somehow violates fundamental, immutable characteristics of the American people.
The “not who we are” crowd is usually short on details to back up their claims, relying instead on platitudes and quotations from famous liberals — “yes we can” from Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObamas-produced film ‘American Factory’ wins Best Documentary Oscar Democrats ramp up attacks on opponents in final pitch before New Hampshire Trump steps up pitch to black voters MORE’s 2008 presidential campaign; “we are a nation of immigrants,” from John F. Kennedy’s 1958 book; “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” from a poem affixed to the base of the Statue of Liberty in 1903.
After three years of his America First policies delivering win after win for the American people, the president took the opportunity to push back against those who seek to redefine what it means to be an American — and to remind us just who we really are.
Fortunately, he hasn’t forgotten the truth about this country’s heritage. He said, “Our ancestors braved the unknown; tamed the wilderness; settled the Wild West; lifted millions from poverty, disease, and hunger; vanquished tyranny and fascism; ushered the world to new heights of science and medicine; laid down the railroads, dug out the canals, raised up the skyscrapers.”
He continued, “This is our glorious and magnificent inheritance. We are Americans. We are pioneers. We are the pathfinders. We settled the New World, we built the modern world, and we changed history forever by embracing the eternal truth that everyone is made equal by the hand of Almighty God.” That is who we are — and no amount of revisionist history or political exploitation of historical tragedy can make us forget it.
President Trump didn’t call back to our great shared story “from the pilgrims to the Founders, from the soldiers at Valley Forge to the marchers at Selma, and from President Lincoln to the Rev. Martin Luther King” merely to tell you why you should oppose the Democratic Party’s radical platform. He made that case amply and eloquently elsewhere in his 80-minute State of the Union — and he didn’t need to specify that socialism is “not who we are” to demonstrate that it’s a terrible idea.
He did it because he knows that our conception of who we are as Americans is more important and enduring than who we elect as president. If we allow politicians or activists to make our children forget that legacy — or worse, to substitute their own contrived vision of American history — we risk losing what makes America great. I’m sick and tired of hearing that President Trump’s agenda is “not who we are,” because he just made perfectly clear that he knows exactly who we are.
Madison Gesiotto is an attorney who serves with the advisory board of the Donald Trump campaign. You can follow her on Twitter @MadisonGesiotto.