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The president will speak this Fourth of July — here’s what he should say

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Predictably, there has been criticism about President Trump’s plan to be part of the national capital’s July 4 celebration on the Mall. Some have even used the word “hijacking” to describe the president’s planned participation.  

That’s absurd. He is not unlawfully seizing anything. Donald Trump is the legitimately elected chief executive, and as such, he has every right to be part of the nation’s birthday party. One wonders if there would have been such an outcry had any other president decided to do the same. 

Critics claim President Trump will politicize the event and make it all about him. But how can anyone condemn a speech that has not yet been given? That’s like being asked to an event to which one does not wish to go and saying: “I’m busy. When is it?” Or a child who looks at a vegetable and states: “I hate that. What is it?”

While it’s possible the president will do what his detractors fear, it’s just as possible — perhaps even likely — that he won’t. As he has done in State of the Union speeches and his recent D-Day remarks, Donald Trump has shown he can rise to the occasion and be downright presidential when he so desires. 

So until and unless President Trump turns the Fourth of July celebration into a self-serving rally, it is unfair to pre-emptively trash his speech. Indeed, fairness requires that we hear it first. 

If he chooses to be the national leader the circumstances require, here’s a suggestion for what he might say:   

My fellow Americans:

Melania and I are thrilled to be part of this amazing celebration. Wow! 

I know there are some who do not like the idea of my being here. As always in America, they are entitled to their views.  Some objected because they feared significant inconveniences due to the logistical challenges that come when a president — any president — participates in an event of this magnitude. I understand that. But over the last couple of years, I have come to know, respect and trust the women and men of the Secret Service, National Park Service, Metro Police and other law enforcement agencies. I thank them, not only for their heroism and bravery every day but for their professionalism in making my visit here possible with minimal disruption for the thousands who have chosen to enjoy Independence Day in the greatest capital in the world.

Others have expressed concern that my presence would politicize this event.  They are wrong. As your president, I take seriously my responsibility to work on behalf of all Americans, and while there is a time and a place for political messages, tonight here is neither.

No, tonight is about what unites us. It’s about what makes America special.  

A fundamental part of that is how we discuss the critical issues facing our country.

Many worry about the intensity of those discussions. Not me. I believe that people get as worked up as they do because they truly care. And I view that as healthy for our democracy. 

Just like those who signed the Declaration of Independence we celebrate today, we have vigorous debates about what are the best public policies because we love our country. Regardless of where we sit on the political spectrum, I am confident that all of us in public service in America share three common goals: improving the quality of life for the greatest possible number of our fellow citizens by creating opportunities for people in all socio-economic groups to achieve their dreams; protecting our great country; and maintaining America’s leadership role in the world. 

The debate is not about the goals but how best to achieve them. That’s a debate that has been going on since our great nation was founded and — if I may predict — will go on for as long as we can imagine.

That’s a good thing. History teaches us that when everyone thinks along the same lines, bad things can happen. 

We may have different opinions about issues, but as long we do not lose sight of the fundamental goals we have in common, respect each other’s point of view, and are willing to compromise, we will be true to the spirit of our Founding Fathers, whose wisdom, vision, and courage we honor tonight.

We revere and remember them for starting the unique experiment that is America, of which we are all blessed to be a part. There has never been another country like ours. I suspect there never will be. 

No other nation has freed itself from the oppression of a distant and oppressive monarchy, established itself as a beacon of hope and freedom for all peoples, and flourished as we have. Freedom of religion, the press, speech and assembly are not the pillars of any other democracy in the world. Only ours. That’s a big deal — some might say huge!

If it sounds like I am talking about American exceptionalism, I am. That’s because I think America is exceptional. We are the exceptionally enduring symbol of hope for peoples the world over.

A lot has happened since we established our independence 243 years ago, yet America remains the envy of the world. 

Bombs no longer burst in air, but our flag is still here. What those broad stripes and bright stars symbolize has never been more important or needed — here and around the world.   

Thank you. Good night and happy birthday, America!

Feel free to borrow whatever you wish, Mr. President. (Just don’t tell Joe Biden!)

Mark Weinberg, a corporate communications consultant and executive speechwriter, is the author of “Movie Nights with the Reagans” (Simon and Schuster). He served as special assistant to the president and assistant press secretary in the Reagan White House, and as director of public affairs in former President Reagan’s office. Follow him @markweinberg40 


Tags D.C. Donald Trump Fourth of July Joe Biden July 4 National Mall speech USA Washington

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