On Tuesday, President Donald Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly for the first time. As expected, the president discussed the rising tensions in North Korea and the Middle East, but he also struck a surprisingly conciliatory yet undoubtedly America-first tone when discussing the intentions of the U.N. and the role he sees the United States playing in it.
After first praising the work of first responders and global leaders who have lent their support to the hurricane recovery efforts in the southeast and Texas, Trump explained the crossroads he believes the world currently faces.
Trump warned the U.N. that it needed to step up it’s efforts as warring nations fight each other, while adding that some of these warring nations will “in fact” be going to hell.
On one hand, Trump sees this as a time of “extraordinary opportunity,” but he warned against those who try to “collapse the values, the systems, and alliances” that have been in place since World War II.
For more than 70 years, in times of war and peace, the leaders of nations, movements, and religions have stood before this assembly. Like them, I intend to address some of the very serious threats before us today, but also the enormous potential waiting to be unleashed. We live in a time of extraordinary opportunity. Breakthroughs in science, technology, and medicine are curing illnesses and solving problems that prior generations thought impossible to solve. But each day also brings news of growing dangers that threaten everything we cherish and value. Terrorists and extremists have gathered strength and spread to every region of the planet. Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terror but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.
Authority and authoritarian powers seek to collapse the values, the systems, and alliances, that prevented conflict and tilted the word toward freedom since World War II. International criminal networks traffic drugs, weapons, people, force dislocation and mass migration, threaten our borders and new forms of aggression exploit technology to menace our citizens. To put it simply, we meet at a time of both immense promise and great peril. It is entirely up to us whether we lift the world to new heights or let it fall into a valley of disrepair. We have it in our power, should we so choose, to lift millions from poverty, to help our citizens realize their dreams, and to ensure that new generations of children are raised free from violence, hatred, and fear.
Trump explained that the U.N. was founded in the aftermath of two globally destructive world wars in an effort to “help shape this better future” by allowing “diverse nations” to “cooperate to protect their sovereignty, preserve their security, and promote their prosperity.” The idea of sovereignty was top of mind for Trump, who proceeded to declare that the “success of the United Nations depends upon the independent strength of its members.” He called for “a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty, to promote security, prosperity, and peace, for themselves and for the world.”
While cultures, traditions, and systems of government may differ country to country, Trump pointed to shared values like ending hunger and human rights as examples of the potential power and importance of a global body like the U.N. He invoked the U.S. Constitution, which celebrates its 230th anniversary this week, as a beacon from which much of the world has come to understand freedom and prosperity.
This week gives our country a special reason to take pride in that example. We are celebrating the 230th anniversary of our beloved Constitution, the oldest constitution still in use in the world today. This timeless document has been the foundation of peace, prosperity, and freedom for the Americans and for countless millions around the globe whose own countries have found inspiration in its respect for human nature, human dignity, and the rule of law. The greatest in the united States Constitution is its first three beautiful words. They are “We the people.” Generations of Americans have sacrificed to maintain the promise of those words, the promise of our country and of our great history.
In America, the people govern, the people rule, and the people are sovereign. I was elected not to take power, but to give power to the American people where it belongs. In foreign affairs, we are renewing this founding principle of sovereignty. Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens, to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values. As president of the United States, I will always put America first. Just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.
All responsible leaders have an obligation to serve their own citizens, and the nation state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition. But making a better life for our people also requires us to with work together in close harmony and unity, to create a more safe and peaceful future for all people.
He also made clear, however, that under his leadership, the U.S. should no longer be viewed simply as a blank check that will fund U.N. pet projects and the world’s problems.
“The United States will forever be a great friend to the world and especially to its allies. But we can no longer be taken advantage of or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return,” Trump said . “As long as I hold this office, I will defend America’s interests above all else, but in fulfilling our obligations to our nations, we also realize that it’s in everyone’s interests to seek the future where all nations can be sovereign, prosperous, and secure.”
“Too often the focus of this organization has not been on results, but on bureaucracy and process. In some cases, states that seek to subvert this institution’s noble end have hijacked the very systems that are supposed to advance them,” he continued. “We believe that no nation should have to bear a disproportionate share of the burden, militarily or financially. Nations of the world must take a greater role in promoting secure and prosperous societies in their own region.”
In closing, Trump praised former President Harry Truman and the global leaders who founded the U.N. some 70 years ago with the “hope of successfully confronting the challenges before us,” while respecting and promoting the “independent strength of its members.”
“Today, if we do not invest ourselves, our hearts, our minds, and our nations, if we will not build strong families, safe communities, and healthy societies for ourselves, no one can do it for us,” the president said. “This is the ancient wish of every people and the deepest yearning that lives inside every sacred soul. So let this be our mission… We will fight together, sacrifice together, and stand together for peace, for freedom, for justice, for family, for humanity, and for the almighty God who made us all.”
Read Trump’s full remarks HERE.