Trump began by saying a bright future for the world demands “strong, sovereign, and independent nations,” defining them as nations “rooted in their histories and invested in their destinies,” seeking “allies to befriend, not enemies to conquer,” and “most important of all, nations that are home to patriots, to men and women who are willing to sacrifice for their countries, their fellow citizens, and for all that is best in the human spirit.”
That’s an intriguing definition of patriotism. As with most of the ideas Trump laid out in his speech, it has three vital components. (Trump and his speechwriters are clearly great believers in the Rule of Three.) The third component illuminates the other two, making it clear that devotion to national identity and a commitment to make sacrifices on behalf of fellow citizens are not virtues unless the nation itself strives to elevate “all that is best in the human spirit.”
This is another way of saying that legitimate governments recognize a duty to all of their citizens, a point Trump made in several different ways throughout the speech. Evil governments are obsessed with the power and wealth of the ruler and his cronies, elevating the regime above its people, or they brutally oppress portions of the populace to benefit favored groups. Squalid dictatorships like North Korea and Iran cannot claim to pursue “all that is best in the human spirit.” Neither can their patrons in upscale authoritarian states like China and Russia.
“In remembering the great victory that led to this body’s founding, we must never forget that those heroes who fought against evil also fought for the nations that they loved,” said Trump, in one of several times he looked back to World War 2. “Patriotism led the Poles to die to save Poland, the French to fight for a free France, and the Brits to stand strong for Britain.”