President Trump’s words in recent days have made many uncomfortable. To be honest, the prepared remarks he has given recently seem to make HIM uncomfortable. Sadly, he seems more comfortable when he is ad-libbing comments that are having the chilling effect of providing cover for bad people. America needs our president to have the courage to speak truth to evil at this moment.
I offer below a draft of a speech that a president looking to bring our country together might give. What if this was the message that President Trump brought to the American people?
My fellow Americans, the events of the last week have brought to the surface age-old wounds in our country. The most famous resident of Charlottesville, Virginia wrote this, “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The great American experiment is based on the idea that ALL men and women are created equal. Our founding father’s history around equality is complicated; the history of our country as it relates to equality and race is complicated as well. Yet, those words are powerful, and if our country is to be great we must do all that we can to strive to live out Jefferson’s challenge to us.
Last weekend’s events in Charlottesville do not represent the America that I believe in. There is no place for the kind of hatred, intolerance, and violence that white supremacists came to Charlottesville to provoke. In the strongest terms I denounce those whose goal is to promote one race over another. The KKK, white supremacists, and Nazi sympathizers are bad people. Those who march alongside the KKK, white supremacists, and Nazi sympathizers are bad people. Anyone who chants racist, fascist, and Nazi slogans are bad people. All who engage in violence against their fellow citizens are wrong.
Over the course of this weekend three innocent people lost their lives. The tragic deaths of Heather Heyer, Lt. H. Jay Cullen, and Trooper Berke M.M. Bates don’t have to be in vain. This tragedy can provide us with an opportunity to have a national conversation about race and equality that might lead us to an America that more fully realizes the vision represented by Jefferson’s words. The terrible hatred and violence that we saw in Charlottesville presents us with an opportunity to call out those who wish to tear our country apart. The leaders of the white supremacy movement have largely and rightfully existed in the shadowy underworld of American political discourse. The explosion of social media has now made it easier for these miscreants to have their voices heard. We must do all that we can to be sure that their voices do not derail the real progress that has occurred in our great nation.
Talking about race in America is not easy. The conversation has to begin with an understanding that the American experience does not look the same for all of us. The experience of an African-American family, whose ancestors were brought to this country under the scourge of slavery is vastly different than the experience of others whose families came here eagerly and willingly. Each of us brings our own history and experience to the idea of what it means to be an American. We must value each of these stories.
We must recognize that many feel that the American Dream may be slipping out of their reach. Any national conversation about race and equality must recognize that our divisions will only get wider if there are Americans who don’t believe that they will be able to achieve the American Dream. The divisions and the anger that we see in many of our communities are born out of fear. That fear is not exclusive to any one race or any one part of our country. There is a real fear among many that the American Dream is no longer attainable. We must create the conditions in which every young person believes that they can become great. This begins with great schools, access to quality health care, and safe streets. Great schools, quality health care, and safe streets should not be the luxury of those who can afford them, but they should be the birthright of all Americans.
America is the greatest country in the world. That is true because America is a work in progress. During Ronald Reagan’s farewell address he said this, “I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.” We have an opportunity to be an America where people of all kinds live in harmony and peace. It begins in our neighborhoods, our churches, and our schools. It begins when we stop talking at each other and begin listening to each other. It begins when we all condemn violence, hatred, and racism in all forms. There is more that unites us as Americans than divides us. It is time to come together and have a complicated, honest, and necessary conversation about what it means to be an American. Together we can make the American Dream a reality for each of us. God bless you and God bless America.