Spirited Reasoners of a certain age may recall President Kennedy’s trip to Berlin in 1963, during which he made his historic “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech. Although the speech is perhaps best known by that one phrase, the following words from that speech might make for a better encapsulation: “There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin.” See, https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/jfk-in-history/the-cold-war-in-berlin
What made that trip, and that speech, so important was the boost of morale it gave to the citizens of West Berlin, who at the time were surrounded by armed enemies guarding the Berlin Wall, and who had every reason to wonder whether their enemies would eventually conquer all of Berlin. Though given less press, what made the trip especially impressive was the courage it took for an American President to risk passing so close to hostile forces.
Spirited Reasoners of a younger age may recall President Reagan making a similar visit to Berlin during the summer of 1987, during which he made his equally historic, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” speech. See, https://www.britannica.com/story/mr-gorbachev-tear-down-this-wall-reagans-berlin-speech Given the fact that the political geography of the region had changed little since President Kennedy’s time, the Reagan trip required an equal dose of Presidential courage.
Fast forward to the year 2023. This time, the overseas trip by an American President was not to Berlin, but rather to an equally besieged Kyiv, Ukraine. Given the fact that hostile fire continues to rain down from Russia across all parts of Ukraine, President Biden should be credited with a measure of courage no less than that showed by Presidents Kennedy and Reagan. His speech, marking the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion into Ukraine, echoed Kennedy’s theme: “One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you and the world stands with you.” See, https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/20/politics/joe-biden-kyiv-visit/index.html
Meanwhile, Donald Trump, who always made it a point to cozy up to Vladimir Putin, seized on the political opportunity last week to travel to East Palestine, Ohio, the site of the recent train derailment, which has endangered thousands of local citizens due to the discharge of hazardous chemicals. In his speech to local citizens there, he implied that President Biden cares more about foreigners than he does about his own people. He didn’t mention the fact that during his own administration he had opposed regulations on the rail industry that might have prevented the disaster.
Spirited Reasoners wonder how Presidents Kennedy and Reagan would have responded to similar criticisms had train derailments occurred during their respective trips to Berlin.
Make no mistake about it. We can either support our democratic allies in their opposition to the aggression of tyrants, or we can accept the rule of tyrants both abroad and at home.
We are the people of the United States of America. We are quite capable of supporting our friends abroad while also taking care of our hurting citizens here at home. It’s not a matter of either-or. Spirited Reasoners see it as both-and.