‘America First’ Should Be ‘Strength to Serve’ Instead
We’re a year and a half into “Making America Great Again,” and “America First.” It’s certainly working — at least in some ways. Unemployment is down. Housing sales are booming. Our president has re-established the practice of holding his head high among other world leaders.
But there’s something missing. From our president’s language of greatness, that is. Including it would greatly improve our image in the world. More than that, it would point us toward true greatness. It’s the language of servanthood — especially on the international scene.
Jesus said, “He who would be great among you must be servant of all.” (Matthew 20:26). What is true of individuals is true of nations as well. America cannot truly be great unless we are great for others.
Servant Greatness Still Means Strength
I’m not talking about weakness here. Nor was Jesus. Greatness requires strength. Donald Trump has been on the right track there; certainly a refreshing correction compared to our previous president.
We need a strong economy from which to give, obviously enough. We need moral strength; otherwise our capacity to give will soon degenerate into self-focus, even chaos. We need a strong foundation in law — not authoritarian rule, but stable and authoritative law — exactly as our Constitution has established. We need a strong national defense.
We certainly need strong borders as well. Take that away, and we meld into our neighboring nations. They in turn will meld into us, weakening our American identity. And that’s the best case scenario. Worse, we invite economic chaos, crime and violence, including terrorism.
Mexico’s recently elected president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, thinks moving to America is a human right. I’m sure it made political sense for him to say that there. In reality, though, it would undermine the very strength that makes our country desirable.
The Whole Language of Greatness
But we on the American side of that border must never forget that being desirable doesn’t make America great. Neither does strength, on its own. It’s essential, yes, but so is servanthood, as Jesus taught. We need to be looking out for others.
This has in fact been America’s heritage. We have been — and we still are — the most giving country in the history of the planet. We give billions through government-funded foreign aid. We give through blood and treasure via military, defending freedom throughout the world. We share knowledge and technology. Individually, Americans give billions more besides.
It’s a major part of what has always made America great. Trump won the presidency on “Make America Great Again,” speaking of American strength; which is, well, great. Unfortunately, though, by saying “America first” alongside it, in effect he’s told the world, “We don’t care so much about the rest of you.” Clearly that’s what they’ve heard him saying, and they see it in his actions, from walking out of the G7 meetings, to imposing broad new tariffs.
The world doesn’t need to agree with all our policies. That’s not my point. My point is that our president needs both to speak and demonstrate the whole range of greatness, including greatness for the sake of others.
Strength to Serve
It would help him in domestic politics. Liberalism has grabbed ownership of the language of caring and giving in American rhetoric — even though it is conservative Americans who give more of their own time and money to help others. Trump could take some of that language back again, and that could only help his cause.
It would help America’s image internationally. President Obama was popular worldwide for downplaying America’s image of lording itself over other nations. He foolishly gave up considerable American strength in the process. But still there’s something to be learned from him. “America first” doesn’t play well on the global stage. “Strength to serve” would do us far better.
Not that this would end global envy, or soften President Obrador’s commitment to combining Mexico and America into a single amorphous mass. But it would speak the truth of who America has been. And it would point us in the right direction, toward true greatness.