Romney’s Warsaw Speech
8:20 AM, Jul 31, 2012 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Mitt Romney’s stop in Jerusalem will probably remain the highlight of his foreign trip, but his eloquent and powerful speech today in Warsaw deserves more notice than it will probably get. In his remarks, Romney suggests a theme for his trip as a whole and a rationale for visiting the three nations he chose to visit, and sketches the national qualities he finds worthy of praise.
I reproduce the speech below, so you can read the whole text. But I'd call attention to these passages, near the top of the speech, as particularly noteworthy:
"I began this trip in Britain and end it here in Poland: the two bookends of NATO, history's greatest military alliance that has kept the peace for over half a century. While at 10 Downing Street I thought back to the days of Winston Churchill, the man who first spoke of the Iron Curtain that had descended across Europe. What an honor to stand in Poland, among the men and women who helped lift that curtain.
“After that stay in England, I visited the State of Israel - a friend of your country and mine. It's been a trip to three places far apart on the map. But for an American, you can't get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country. Our nations belong to the great fellowship of democracies. We speak the same language of freedom and justice. We uphold the right of every person to live in peace.
“Yesterday, I saw the memorial at Westerplatte and the gate at the Gdansk Shipyard, where Polish citizens stood with courage and determination against daunting odds. And today, on the eve of the 68th anniversary of this city's uprising against the Nazis, I will pay tribute at the monument to that historic struggle. Over 200,000 Poles were killed in those weeks, and this city was nearly destroyed. But your enduring spirit survived.
“Free men and women everywhere, whether they have been here or not, already know this about Poland: In some desperate hours of the last century, your people were the witnesses to hope, led onward by strength of heart and faith in God. Not only by force of arms, but by the power of truth, in villages and parishes across this land, you shamed the oppressor and gave light to the darkness....
“And here, in 1979, a son of Poland, Pope John Paul the Second, spoke words that would bring down an empire and bring freedom to millions who lived in bondage. ‘Be not afraid’—those words changed the world.”
It's striking that in these remarks, Romney chooses to speak not as a "citizen of the world" but as a citizen of the free world. He suggests that American exceptionalism isn't a basis for some sort of arrogant disdain for the rest of the world, but rather provides the grounds for a duty to stand with others around the world fighting for freedom. And he explains that, in the case of Poland but also beyond the case of Poland, the spirit of liberty can be allied with the spirit of faith, and the courage of rebellion with the power of truth.
It would be an irony if, on a foreign trip which most of his campaign regarded as a diversion from the allegedly all-important and all-consuming topic of jobs, jobs, jobs, Mitt Romney found his voice to speak about the deeper issue at stake in the 2012 election and beyond, the question of what America stands for and what America means.
Here’s the full text: