Documents on Democracy

Issue Date April 2017
Volume 28
Issue 2
Page Numbers 181-87
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United States

On 8 November 2016, Donald J. Trump of the Republican Party defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to win the presidency. (See the set of essays on the U.S. election on pp. 20-76 above.) On 20 January 2017 in Washington, D.C., President Trump took the oath of office and delivered his inaugural address, emphasizing the theme “America First.” Excerpts from his address appear below. (For a full version of this text, see

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all of our people. …

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished—but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered—but the jobs left, and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

That all changes—starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: It belongs to you. …

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. …

The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans. For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. [End Page 181]

We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon. One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.

But that is the past. And now we are looking only to the future. We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.

On February 17–19, a U.S. delegation led by Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of Defense James Mattis traveled to Germany to attend the fifty-third annual Munich Security Conference. On February 17, speaking on behalf of President Trump, Pence reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to NATO and to the trans-Atlantic alliance. Excerpts from his speech follow. (For a full version of this text, see

History will attest that when the United States and Europe are peaceful and prosperous, we advance the peace and prosperity of the entire world.

Now, the President asked me to be here today to bring his greetings—and a message. Today, on behalf of President Trump, I bring you this assurance. The United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in our commitment to this transatlantic alliance. …

For generations, we have worked side by side with you to strengthen and defend your democracies. Together, we formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949 to defend our shared heritage and shared principles, such as sovereignty, territorial integrity, and self-determination. We confronted the menace of Communism, which threatened to overwhelm Europe and the world in its heartless, inhuman embrace. We stood together in 1990 as this very nation reunited and Eastern Europe chose freedom, free markets, and democracy. …

The fall of the Soviet Union ushered in an opportunity for unprecedented peace and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic. But the end of that era only marked the beginning of another. The collapse of communism has been followed by the rise of new adversaries and new threats.

. … If the past century has taught us anything, it’s that peace and prosperity in Europe and the North Atlantic can never be regarded as achieved; it must be continually maintained through shared sacrifice and shared commitment. …

Our leadership of the free world will not falter, even for a moment. Our strength, and that of this alliance, is not derived solely from our [End Page 182] strength of arms, though. It’s born of our shared principles, the principles and ideals that we cherish—freedom, democracy, justice, and the rule of law. These are the wellspring of the United States’ strength and of Europe’s strength.

They spring from that timeless notion that our unalienable rights—of life and liberty—are not granted to us by sovereigns, or governments, or kings. They are, as the American founders observed, endowed by our Creator. Marshalling the will to confront the evils of the 21st century will require faith, faith in these timeless ideals. …

This then is our cause. It’s why NATO exists. It’s why, after so many centuries of strife and division, Europe is unified.

The United States has been faithful to Europe for generations, and we will keep the faith that drove our forefathers to sacrifice so much in defense of our shared heritage.

We share a past, and after all we’ve been through, we share a future. Today, tomorrow, and every day hence be confident that the United States is now and will always be your greatest ally.

Also attending the Munich conference as co-leader of a bipartisan congressional delegation was Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee who lost to Barack Obama in 2008. McCain stressed the current threats to the survival of the West and the necessity of trans-Atlantic unity in defending democratic values. Excerpts from his remarks appear below. (For a full version of this text, see

I know there is profound concern across Europe and the world that America is laying down the mantle of global leadership. I can only speak for myself, but I do not believe that is the message you will hear from all of the American leaders who cared enough to travel here to Munich this weekend. … And that is certainly not the message you will hear tomorrow from our bipartisan congressional delegation.

Make no mistake, my friends: These are dangerous times, but you should not count America out, and we should not count each other out. We must be prudent, but we cannot wring our hands and wallow in self-doubt. We must appreciate the limits of our power, but we cannot allow ourselves to question the rightness and goodness of the West. We must understand and learn from our mistakes, but we cannot be paralyzed by fear. We cannot give up on ourselves and on each other. That is the definition of decadence. And that is how world orders really do decline and fall.

This is exactly what our adversaries want. This is their goal. They have no meaningful allies, so they seek to sow dissent among us and divide us from each other. They know that their power and influence are inferior to ours, so they seek to subvert us, and erode our resolve to resist, and terrorize us into passivity. They know they have little to offer [End Page 183] the world beyond selfishness and fear, so they seek to undermine our confidence in ourselves and our belief in our own values.

We must take our own side in this fight. We must be vigilant. We must persevere. And through it all, we must never, never cease to believe in the moral superiority of our own values—that we stand for truth against falsehood, freedom against tyranny, right against injustice, and hope against despair. And that even though we will inevitably take losses and suffer setbacks, through it all, so long as people of goodwill and courage refuse to lose faith in the West, it will endure.

That is why we come to Munich, year in and year out—to revitalize our common moral purpose, our belief that our values are worth the fighting for. Because in the final analysis, the survival of the West is not just a material struggle; it is now, and has always been, a moral struggle. Now more than ever, we must not forget this. …

Even now, when the temptation to despair is greatest, I refuse to accept the end of the West. I refuse to accept the demise of our world order. I refuse to accept that our greatest triumphs cannot once again spring from our moments of greatest peril, as they have so many times before. I refuse to accept that our values are morally equivalent to those of our adversaries. I am a proud, unapologetic believer in the West, and I believe we must always, always stand up for it—for if we do not, who will?


On 7 October 2016, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to negotiate a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Just days before, Colombian voters had narrowly rejected the accord by referendum vote. Later, on November 30, Colombia’s Congress approved a revised version of the agreement renegotiated by Santos, setting the stage for an end to more than fifty years of war with the country’s largest rebel group. On December 10, Santos delivered his acceptance remarks at an awards ceremony in Oslo. Excerpts appear below. (For a full version of this text, see

Just two months ago, people in Colombia and indeed in the whole world were shocked to learn that, in a plebiscite called to ratify the peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas, there were slightly more “No” votes than “Yes” votes.

This outcome was completely unexpected. A flame of hope had been lit in Cartagena a week earlier, when we signed the agreement in the presence of world leaders, and now that flame appeared to be suddenly snuffed out. …

Not even four days had passed after the surprising plebiscite when [End Page 184] the Norwegian Committee announced an equally surprising award of the Nobel Peace Prize.

I must confess to you that this news came as if it were a gift from heaven. At a time when our ship felt adrift, the Nobel Prize was the tailwind that helped us to reach our destination: the port of peace!

. … Today, we have a new agreement for ending the armed conflict with the FARC, which incorporates the majority of the proposals we received. This new agreement was signed two weeks ago, and it was endorsed last week by our Congress, by an overwhelming majority, so that it can be incorporated into our laws. The long-awaited process of implementation has begun, with the invaluable support of the United Nations.

With this new agreement, the oldest and last armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere has ended. …

With this agreement, we can say that the American continent—from Alaska to Patagonia—is a land in peace.


The January 31 passage of an emergency ordinance to limit prosecution of financial misconduct by Romanian elected officials ignited widespread public protests against the ruling coalition government led by Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu of the Social Democratic Party. On February 7, days after the parliament rescinded the ordinance, President Klaus Iohannis of the National Liberal Party discussed the crisis in an address to Parliament. Excerpts appear below in a translation by Marius Stan of the Research Institute of the University of Bucharest:

We all wish that Romania does well, but these times are not simple, and we are dealing with a deep crisis. Hundreds of thousands of Romanians have taken to the streets, the nation is on its toes, it is alive, and it is very unsatisfied. …

The presidents of the two Chambers … are trying to fill people’s heads with the idea that I do not accept the election results, and that I am conspiring to do something to reverse the results and to overthrow a legitimate government.

No! It is false! You won, now you govern the country and pass the laws—but not regardless of them. Not regardless! Romania needs a strong government, not one that bashfully executes some Party orders. Romania needs a government that works in a transparent and predictable way, in the daylight, not furtively at night. …

Ladies and Gentlemen, what kind of nation do we want to be? Do we want to be a strong and prosperous nation, a nation that builds for itself a constitutional state and respects it, a nation that can be proud of its independent justice, a nation whose authorities are committed [End Page 185] to it in a loyal manner, a nation with a strong Parliament, a nation with a proficient government? Or do we just want a weak nation, despised by others, a nation that compromises everything so as to save a few from limited situations, a few politicians with problems?

. … Maybe you have followed the demonstrations over the last few days, the many street protests that have been taking place. The largest demonstration in Bucharest, at Victoria Square, but also in many, many other Romanian cities and abroad. There have been sizeable demonstrations even in places where nothing else has happened since the 1989 Revolution. This is incredible!

I think you all remember that beautiful image from Victoria Square with all those cell phones lighting up in the sky. There! When politicians have tried to drag democracy through some obscure corridors, Romanians took the streets and brought back the light upon the democratic process. …

Let’s therefore keep democracy alive and the country clean, both literally and metaphorically—for the upcoming generations, for the future of Romania!

The Gambia

On 1 December 2016, opposition presidential candidate Adama Barrow won a surprising victory over longtime authoritarian ruler Yahya Jammeh. (For an analysis of the Gambia’s presidential election, see the article on pp. 147–56 above.) With Jammeh refusing to cede power, Barrow was forced to take the oath of office on January 19 at the Gambian embassy in Dakar, the capital of neighboring Senegal. Excerpts from Barrow’s inaugural address appear below. (For a full version of this text, see​.)

This is a victory of the Gambian nation. Our national flag will now fly high among those of the most democratic nations of the world. The capacity to effect change through the ballot box has proven that power belongs to the people of the Gambia.

Violent change is banished forever from the political life of our country. All Gambians are therefore winners. There is no loser in the Gambian election. It is a fact that we contest elections on the basis of political diversity but we build nations on the basis of national unity. We are here assembled as One Gambia, One Nation, and One People.

Throughout our campaign, we promised to unify our diverse people so that each would take ownership of the country, irrespective of ethnic origin, religion, gender, or any other difference. Today, most Gambians are united in order to give Gambia a new start.

Hence, as of today, I am the President of all Gambians regardless of whether you voted for me or not. [End Page 186]

We could now become the architects of a Democratic Republic that is built on the pillars of good governance, rule of law, and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. …

Gambia is our homeland! It demands our love and loyalty. Let us all pledge our firm allegiance to be ever true to our motherland, the Gambia. Long Live the Republic. Long Live the United People of the Gambia. Forward Ever! Backward Never!


On March 11, as part of a commemoration of the day of the restoration of Lithuania’s independence in 1990, Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy, addressed the Lithuanian parliament (Seimas). Excerpts from his remarks appear below:

It’s a great honor for me to speak to the plenary of the Lithuanian Parliament on the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the Lithuanian revolution. … This was one of the great uprisings for freedom in all of human history, since it led not only to Lithuania’s liberation from communist oppression but also to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which was the world’s last remaining empire. …

No country has helped as much as Lithuania in doing the things that make the difference [for Russian activists] between life and death and between freedom and jail. … Lithuania sees clearly the difference between the Russian state and Russians working for free expression and democracy, and it clearly and consistently confronts the former and protects the latter at home and in every European and international venue.

Lithuania supports democrats from the entire region through diplomatic efforts to promote better policies, by providing refuge for democrats-at-risk, and by hosting meetings and conferences where democratic ideas can be honed and democratic networks developed. Lithuania also serves as a symbol of democratic solidarity for the region and the world. For Georgia and Moldova, it is a model of democratic transition and a friendly partner and adviser. Lithuania is a model of perseverance against great odds in the cause of freedom. …

At a time when democracy is under attack and faces an historic crisis of belief and conviction in the democratic heartland of Europe and the United States, Lithuania’s example can help reignite the flame of freedom and revive the commitment to the defense of human dignity and responsibility.

May the world rise to the standard set by this small country, and may the path chartered by Lithuania help guide mankind from the present state of despondency and confusion to a future of freedom, security, and peace. [End Page 187]