“America loves Poland, and America loves the Polish people”

President Donald Trump makes Historic visit to Poland

The relationship between the United States and Poland was on center stage in Trump’s first visit to Eastern Europe.  On Wednesday, July 5, the President made waves across Europe with his historic visit to Poland, culminating in an address at Krasiński Square in Warsaw.

Trump’s leadership has been at the center of global speculation that is of no news to any American citizen.  The well-known hallmarks of his presidency are no stranger to revenue-generating journalism, the likes of which have become a dead horse to all but the most visceral of ideological anxiety.  But despite the minefield of profitable yellow journalism, concerned Americans still bristle with genuine curiosity at the President’s role in shaping the image of the United States over the next few years.

Of utmost concern for Polish-Americans however, is the formation of any trends that affect humanity’s efforts to deal with global crises—and most importantly—what the national pecking order will look like after any re-structuring of geopolitics.  Will Poland be an influential ally and partner to the US as it’s been throughout history?  Nations across the globe have been re-evaluating their stances in response to President Trump’s leadership amidst the persistence of global challenges, and Poland is no different.  Some say that issues like the rise of radical Islam, the migrant crisis, and economic security have caused a rise in nationalistic parties that share Trump-ish attitudes and policies.  When the Law and Justice Party (PiS) took over Poland’s government in 2015, it was easy to make assumptions about similarities in the direction in which the two countries were heading.

Upon close examination of Trump’s presence in Poland, the depth of the Polish-U.S. alliance becomes apparent, and the Polish community in the United States might finally rest assured of the results of tireless advocacy for their ancestral homeland.

Trump’s visit was heralded as a major boost to Polish-American relations, which brings attention to the work of Polish-American advocacy groups in the United States.  Cultural organizations like The Polish Mission of the Orchard Lake Schools and others work to maintain an accurate awareness of Poland and its people to audiences across the U.S.  Highlighting Poland’s remarkable history may be seen as mere cultural enrichment for many in America, but the bigger picture is often lost amidst the milieu of traditional dace recitals

Multiple meetings were held with Polish President Andrzej Duda and others, and the landmark visit reached its public climax with a speech in front of the famous Warsaw Uprising Monument.  For over thirty minutes President Trump and the First Lady directly addressed important points on the big issues facing Poland—and they didn’t shy away from America’s commitments, either.

“America is eager to expand our partnership with you. We welcome stronger ties of trade and commerce as you grow your economies. And we are committed to securing your access to alternate sources of energy, so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy.”

Words like that mean a difference to a country that throughout much of its history has been demolished by oppressive neighboring nation-states.  He congratulated Poland on the Three Seas initiative, which aims to reduce Eastern Europe’s dependence on traditional East-West energy routes.  The initiative, originally developed between Croatia and Poland, has roots in history as Polish Statesman Marshal Józef Piłsudski had promoted a similar program in the early days of Poland’s Second Republic (1918-1939).  Meeting with leaders from several Baltic countries on Thursday July 6th, Trump further affirmed U.S. support, which would pave the way for greater energy diversification, and more exports from America.  While on the topic, a tanker from Louisiana delivered the first shipment of liquefied natural gas to Poland just about one month ago.

In Warsaw, Trump said that Polish and U.S. soldiers “still serve together today in Afghanistan and Iraq, combating the enemies of all civilization,” and then went on to recite the proud and tragic history of Poland, with a focus on the resilience of Polish people.  The very respectful account of Poland’s triumph through tragedy was a bold and loud statement that turned the heads of Poles across the world, and especially in the United States.

It came at an apropos time, too.  Recalling former President Obama’s notorious 2012 gaffe, when he used the expression “Polish concentration camps” upon the posthumous awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, Trump’s recollection of the major chapters of Poland’s tragedy-laden path to freedom, was a much-needed repair to the insult of several years before.

Trump’s awareness and moving recount of Polish history was a powerful symbol of recognition for the country that is often portrayed as a martyr.  Polish-American educational organizations exist to educate our diverse community about not just the plight of the Polish people, but of the accomplishments, determination, and value of Polish society.  Trump’s powerful address suggests that contrary to the worry of many in Polonia, the United States not only stands firmly in friendship and alliance with Poland, but acknowledges its tragedies and heroism that have become a permanent fixture of Poland today.

Trump went on to thank the many veterans as well: “I am deeply honored to be joined on stage today by veterans and heroes of the Warsaw Uprising.  What great spirit–we salute your noble sacrifice and we pledge to always remember your fight for Poland and for freedom. Thank you, thank you.” This acknowledgement brought out an important aspect of the entire speech, which might be called a “price of freedom.”  Through Poland’s historic and heroic defense and nourishment of values and identity over lifetimes of oppression, the President seemingly sought to empower the continuation of such determination, this time, against the threat of radical Islam, financial crimes, propaganda, cyberwarfare, and the “creep of government bureaucracy” in the 21st century.

Throughout the respectful recollection of Polish history, Trump took the time to salute the legacy of Polish world leaders, bringing up Nicolas Copernicus and Frederic Chopin.  In what many consider to be a moving diplomatic gesture, he linked those figures with Poland’s modern-day heroes, like President Lech Walesa who famously led the Solidarity movement that broke communism’s grip on Poland.  He also recognized the work and ministry of St. John Paul II, drawing attention to Poland’s Christian values.

Senior Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump, made it a point to visit the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, and recited the Kaddish prayer with Rabbi Schudrich after laying wreath that read “From the people of the United States.”   She delivered a speech, and also visited the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which won the prestigious European Museum of the Year award in 2016.  She said on Twitter that the visits were “deeply moving.”

So, how can we measure the impact of the visit of the President and his family in Poland?  How is history to record it?  The answer largely depends on the quickly-approaching future which brings ever-more-pressing challenges to European identity and prosperity.   President Trump’s visit to Poland comes just before meetings with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, and subsequent participation in the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

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