I don’t write about politics, though I have made poems about the ramifications of policies and political actions. The last thing I expected was that a speech on U.S. soil by a French politician could possibly give me cause for a new optimism about the future of the planet. Yet it was so.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech to the United States Congress on April 25, 2018 appeals to the highest nature of all of us “building together, the 21st century world order.” He repeats the important concept of multilateralism several times, referring to an alliance of multiple countries pursuing a common goal, and he speaks of human rights, rights of minorities, and shared liberty as true answers to the disorders of the world! It was stunning to hear the usually divided US Congress responding to his speech so unanimously and uproariously. We are all so very hungry for this clear articulation of passionate ideals!
Macron goes so far beyond nationalism as to render it petty when he says, “What is the meaning of our life if our decisions reduce the opportunities for our children? We’re citizens of the same planet, and, we can make our planet great again.” He speaks to the abuses of capitalism and says he believes we can build the right answers by negotiating and cooperating. We wrote the World Trade organization rules, he reminds us, and we should follow them!
As for the Paris Climate Agreement, Macron diplomatically says, “One day the United States will come back and join, I’m sure!” Regarding fake news, he calls it “a virus, a corruption of information, an attempt to corrode the spirit of our Democracies.” When he goes on to speak of the danger of nuclear proliferation threats, he declares that France supports demilitarization of the Korean peninsula.
Macron becomes more and more pointed in his speech, but instead of arrows directed at Trump, he lifts us all above that base level and says, for example, about Iran: “We must respect sovereignty and let us not create new walls.” He reminds us that the US and France both signed the Iran Agreement and that “we cannot abandon it without something more substantial and comprehensive in its place, not without leaving the floor to terrorists.” He uses terms of respect when speaking of building peace in Syria as well, calling us all to honor diversity and to find humanitarian solutions.
Throughout the speech, Macron lays out rational positions that are a sweeping indictment of the US President’s worldview and he does it all without attacking Trump. “We can choose isolationism, withdrawal, and nationalism. This is an option. It can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears,” Macron said. “But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world.”
In his speech Emmanuel Macron addresses “women and men” (in that startling order) more than once, leaving behind the patriarchal mode of referring to human history as mankind’s. And at the end of this crucial call to higher ground, French President Macron rouses us out of our despondency into hope, with the words, “what we cherish is at stake, what we love is in danger— and together we shall prevail!”
Full replay of Macron speech