Trump’s Inaugural Address: Hope and Change Revisited

by LT. COLONEL JAMES G. ZUMWALT, USMC (RET) January 26, 2017

While most new incoming presidents seek to instill a sense of hope and promise for change, no one can dispute out-going president Barack Obama delivered on this. Unfortunately, as his legacy will eventually memorialize, it was not a stronger, more unified America he left behind.

Similarly, incoming President Donald Trump's inaugural address also trumpeted hope and change.  There was a subtle, underlying message in it that obviously is critical to any president's success in reaching goals he has set to effect change, particularly for the numerous goals Trump extolled. 

Trump seeks to pursue an ambitious list of efforts that seek to rebuild America both socially and infrastructure-wise. The subtle underlying message is one first told in a fable two and a half millennium ago by the ancient Greek fabulist Aesop.

In his tale "Four Oxen and the Lion," Aesop shares how the four bovids, threatened by a lion, worked together to hold it at bay. But, following a quarrel, the four went their separate ways, each ultimately becoming a meal for the lion. It was the classic message of "united we stand, divided we fall."

While the new president put a lot on his plate to accomplish during his term(s), the need for political leaders of both parties to work together will be absolutely critical to achieving any success. The prospects of this happening, despite a Republican-controlled House and Senate, in the wake of one of the most divisive presidential elections, both on an inter and intra-party basis, would seem nearly impossible. 

Of course, the same was once said as well about the prospects of a Trump presidential election victory. Hopefully, our political leaders will heed his call to work together. Hopefully, Americans will come together as he noted, "When you open your heart to patriotism..."

Ironically, it is those same bi-partisan anti-Trump divisions that enhance, more so than for any other previous president to take office, the opportunity to do so. This is because Trump is unbeholding to the normal powers to be for his victory.

Trump's address also pitched one of his changes would be for America to do what every other nation of the world does-put its own interests first. 

Unbelievably, some pundits were quick to jump on Trump's "America First" theme. One long-time anti-Trump commentator, Chris Matthews, went so far as incredulously to suggest such a statement had a "Hitlerian background to it" due to its nationalistic tone. 

Perhaps if Matthews loved non-family more than his own family members, which is doubtful, one might give his outrageous comment credibility.  But he undoubtedly-and rightfully so-possesses a family-first attitude.  Therefore, he should not fault Trump for putting America first. After all, such an attitude has been missing from the White House for eight years now.

Two other aspects of Trump's address were also noteworthy. 

First, we now have someone in the Oval Office who finally understands terrorism. Trump promised to "unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism." Unlike his predecessor who danced around the issue, giving terrorism the false name of "violent extremism," Trump rightfully calls it what it is. After all, the first step to defeating terrorism is knowing what you are fighting-and, in this regard, Obama played dumb.

Second, for having caused so much political ire during the campaign by raising the immigration issue and a possible Muslim ban, Trump delivered a speech that was relatively immigration-light.

He did mention the need to protect our borders and that immigration issues would be decided based on Americans' best interests. But little beyond that was mentioned.

What would critics have said had Trump stated the following:

"...we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here..."

These words, spoken in 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt, undoubtedly would have met with backlash.  A politically correct America would have an issue 110 years after the fact with such words. And, after all, Roosevelt, was a Republican.

Well then, let's try these words, spoken much more recently, this time by a Democrat-President Bill Clinton-in his 1995 State of the Union address:

"All Americans...are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public services they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That's why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens...we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the workplace...We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it."

There are issues confronting us today, such as immigration, that have been confronting us for generations. These issues have been recognized by presidents of both political parties. They have all promised us hope and change to correct them. 

Hopefully, the political independence Trump brings to the table will encourage bi-partisan cooperation in attacking such issues. In the miracle of miracles, perhaps our political leaders will open their hearts to patriotism, closing their eyes to partisanship-as did a previous generation that gave us our Founding Fathers.

Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of "Bare Feet, Iron Will--Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields," "Living the Juche Lie: North Korea's Kim Dynasty" and "Doomsday: Iran--The Clock is Ticking." He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.

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