President Biden speaks at Valley Forge on January 5th, 2024
President Biden speaks at Valley Forge on January 5th, 2024 (Courtesy of the Biden-Harris campaign)

Today, Pres­i­dent Joe Biden trav­eled to Val­ley Forge, Penn­syl­va­nia to deliv­er remarks on uphold­ing Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy in the face of ris­ing author­i­tar­i­an­ism, par­tic­u­lar­ly from neo­fas­cist Don­ald Trump and his enablers.

Biden’s cam­paign pro­mot­ed the speech as one of his most con­se­quen­tial address­es, and hav­ing watched and read it, our team agrees. We believe that hav­ing access to pri­ma­ry source mate­r­i­al is valu­able, so we’re mak­ing the speech acces­si­ble to our read­ers right here on The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate. Click play to watch, or read an anno­tat­ed tran­script by scrolling down below the video.

Transcript: President Joe Biden’s Speech at Valley Forge

Jan­u­ary 5th, 2024 | Anno­ta­tions by the North­west Pro­gres­sive Institute

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Please, thank you.

Please, thank you very, very much.

Today, the top­ic of my speech today is dead­ly seri­ous and I think it needs to be made at the out­set of this campaign.

In the win­ter of 1777, it was harsh and cold as the Con­ti­nen­tal Army marched to Val­ley Forge. Gen­er­al George Wash­ing­ton knew he faced the most daunt­ing of tasks, to fight and win a war against the most pow­er­ful empire in exis­tence in the world at the time. His mis­sion was clear: lib­er­ty, not con­quest. Free­dom. Not dom­i­na­tion. Nation­al inde­pen­dence. Not indi­vid­ual glory.
Amer­i­ca made a vow: Nev­er again would we bow down to a king.

Months ahead would be incred­i­bly difficult.

But Gen­er­al Wash­ing­ton knew some­thing in his bones. Some­thing about the spir­it of the troops he was lead­ing. Some­thing, some­thing about the soul of the nation he was strug­gling to be born. In his gen­er­al order, he pre­dict­ed, and I quote, with one heart and one mind, with for­ti­tude and with patience, they would over­come every dif­fi­cul­ty, the troops he was lead­ing. And they did. They did.

This army that lacked blan­kets and food, clothes and shoes. This army, whose march left bloody bare foot­prints in the snow. This rag­tag army made up of ordi­nary peo­ple. Their mis­sion, George Wash­ing­ton declared, was noth­ing less than a sacred cause. That was the phrase he used.

A sacred cause. Free­dom, Lib­er­ty. Democ­ra­cy. Amer­i­can democracy.

I just vis­it­ed the grounds of Val­ley Forge. I’ve been there a num­ber of times since the time I was a Boy Scout years ago. You know, it’s the very site that I think every Amer­i­can should vis­it, because it tells the sto­ry of the pain and the suf­fer­ing and the true patri­o­tism it took to make America.

NPI com­men­tary: Biden’s speech­writ­ers did a great job devel­op­ing a hook for this speech, which is tied in to the set­ting where it was deliv­ered: Val­ley Forge, Penn­syl­va­nia. It was there in 1777 that Gen­er­al Wash­ing­ton’s army suf­fered through a bit­ter­ly cold win­ter, short of food, short of warm cloth­ing, and short of ade­quate san­i­ta­tion. Dis­ease and exhaus­tion plagued the camp, home to some 12,000 sol­diers. But the Con­ti­nen­tal Army sur­vived that mis­er­able win­ter. Here, Biden is draw­ing a par­al­lel and say­ing that we can endure too, despite the dark­ness that sur­rounds us. 

Today, we gath­er in a new year, some 246 years lat­er, just one day before Jan­u­ary 6, a day for­ev­er seared in our mem­o­ry because it was on that day that we near­ly lost Amer­i­ca, lost it all.

Today, we’re here to answer the most impor­tant of questions.

Is democ­ra­cy still America’s sacred cause? I mean it.

This is not rhetor­i­cal, aca­d­e­m­ic or hypo­thet­i­cal. Whether democ­ra­cy is still America’s sacred cause is the most urgent ques­tion of our time.

And it’s what the 2024 elec­tion is all about.

The choice is clear.

Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign is about him, not Amer­i­ca, not you.

Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign is obsessed with the past, not the future. He’s will­ing to sac­ri­fice our democ­ra­cy, put him­self in power.

NPI com­men­tary: Right after invok­ing Trump’s name, Biden moved imme­di­ate­ly to define what he and his move­ment are about: sac­ri­fic­ing democ­ra­cy, putting him­self in pow­er, set­tling old scores from the past, then con­trast­ing that with his vision of inclu­sive­ness. This is good and nec­es­sary reframing. 

Our cam­paign is dif­fer­ent. For me and Kamala, our cam­paign is about Amer­i­ca. It’s about you. It’s about every age and back­ground that occu­py this country.

It’s about the future we’re going to con­tin­ue to build togeth­er. And our cam­paign is about pre­serv­ing and strength­en­ing our Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy. Three years ago tomor­row, we saw with our own eyes the vio­lent mob stormed the Unit­ed States Capi­tol. It was almost in dis­be­lief as you first turned on the television.

For the first time in our his­to­ry, insur­rec­tion­ists had come to stop the peace­ful trans­fer, trans­fer of pow­er in Amer­i­ca. First time.

Smash­ing win­dows, shat­ter­ing doors, attack­ing the police.

Out­side, gal­lows were erect­ed as the MAGA crowd chant­ed, “Hang Mike Pence.”

Inside, they hunt­ed for Speak­er Pelosi. The House was chant­i­ng as they marched through and smashed win­dows, “Where’s Nancy?”

Over 140 police offi­cers were injured. Jill and I attend­ed the funer­al of police offi­cers who died as a result of the events of that day.

Because Don­ald, because of Don­ald Trump’s lies, they died because these lies brought a mob to Washington.

He promised it would be wild. And it was.

He told the crowd to “fight like hell” and all hell was unleashed.

He promised he would write them, write them, every­thing they did. He would be side by side with them. Then, as usu­al, he left the dirty work to others.

He retreat­ed to the White House.

As Amer­i­ca was attacked from with­in, Don­ald Trump watched on TV in a pri­vate, small din­ing room off my oval, off the Oval Office.

The entire nation watched in horror.

The whole world watched in disbelief.

And Trump did nothing.

Mem­bers of his staff, mem­bers of his fam­i­ly. Repub­li­can lead­ers who were under attack at that very moment pled with him.

Act. Call off the mob. Imag­ine had he gone out and said, “Stop.”

Still, Trump did nothing.

It was among the worst dere­lic­tions of duty by a pres­i­dent in Amer­i­can history.

An attempt to over­turn a free and fair elec­tion by force and violence.

NPI com­men­tary: Using pow­er­ful and stark lan­guage, Pres­i­dent Biden remind­ed the audi­ence of what real­ly hap­pened on Jan­u­ary 6th and pinned the blame on the insti­ga­tor and inciter: Don­ald Trump. “Because of Don­ald Trump’s lies” is a crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant phrase here. Note also the words “Amer­i­ca was attacked from with­in.” That’s exact­ly how Jan­u­ary 6th should be described. It was­n’t a “riot,” as many news out­lets inap­pro­pri­ate­ly call it. It was an attack, just as Pres­i­dent Biden said. An attack on our democracy. 

A record 81 mil­lion peo­ple vot­ed for my can­di­da­cy and to end his pres­i­den­cy. Trump lost the pop­u­lar vote by 7 mil­lion. Trump’s claims about the 2020 elec­tion nev­er could stand up in court. Trump lost six­ty court cas­es. Sixty.

Trump lost the Repub­li­can-con­trolled states. Trump lost before a Trump-appoint­ed judge, and then judges, and Trump lost before the Unit­ed States Supreme Court.

All of it. He lost.

Trump lost recount after recount after recount and state after state.

But in des­per­a­tion and weak­ness, Trump and his MAGA fol­low­ers went after elec­tion offi­cials who ensured your pow­er as a cit­i­zen would be heard.

These pub­lic ser­vants had their lives for­ev­er upend­ed by attacks and death threats for sim­ply doing their jobs.

In Atlanta, Geor­gia, a brave Black moth­er and her daugh­ter, Ruby Free­man and Shaye Moss, were doing their jobs as elec­tion work­ers until Don­ald Trump and his MAGA fol­low­ers tar­get­ed and threat­ened them, forc­ing them from their homes, unleash­ing racist vit­ri­ol on them.

Trump’s per­son­al lawyer. Rudy Giu­liani, was just hit with a 148 mil­lion-dol­lar judg­ment for cru­el­ty and defama­tion that he inflict­ed against them.

Oth­er state and local elect­ed offi­cials across the coun­try faced sim­i­lar per­son­al attacks. In addi­tion, Fox News agreed to pay a record eight, 787 mil­lion dol­lars for the lies they told about vot­er fraud.

NPI com­men­tary: Fox News and Rudy Giu­liani are both called out here for their role in try­ing to over­turn the result of a free and fair pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, with Biden also accost­ing Trump’s many enablers using the words “his MAGA followers.” 

Let’s be clear about the 2020 election.

Trump exhaust­ed every legal avenue avail­able to him to over­turn the elec­tion. Every one, but the legal path just took Trump back to the truth, that I’d won the elec­tion and he was a loser.

Well, so know­ing how his mind works now, he had one, he had one act left.

One des­per­ate act avail­able to him, the vio­lence of Jan­u­ary the 6th.

Since that day, more than 1,200 peo­ple have been charged with assault in the Capi­tol. Near­ly 900 of them have been con­vict­ed or pled guilty. Col­lec­tive­ly to date, they have been sen­tenced to more than 840 years in prison.

What’s Trump done?

Instead of call­ing them crim­i­nals, he’s called these insur­rec­tion­ists patri­ots. They’re patri­ots. And he promised to par­don them if he returns to office. Trump said that there was a lot of love on Jan­u­ary the 6th.

The rest of the nation, includ­ing law enforce­ment, saw a lot of hate and violence.

One Capi­tol Police offi­cer called it a medieval battle.

That same offi­cer called vile, was called vile, racist names.

He said he was more afraid in the Capi­tol of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, in the cham­bers, than when he was fight­ing as a sol­dier in the war in Iraq. He said he was more afraid inside the halls of Con­gress than fight­ing in war in Iraq.

In try­ing to rewrite the facts of Jan­u­ary 6th, Trump was try­ing to steal his­to­ry, the same way he tried to steal the election.

But he, we knew the truth, because we saw it with our own eyes. So it wasn’t like some­thing, a sto­ry being told. It was on tele­vi­sion repeat­ed­ly. We saw it with our own eyes. Trump’s mob wasn’t a peace­ful protest. It was a vio­lent assault.

They were insur­rec­tion­ists, not patri­ots. They weren’t there to uphold the Con­sti­tu­tion. They were there to destroy the Constitution.

NPI com­men­tary: Notice how Biden refers to the Jan­u­ary 6th attack­ers as insur­rec­tion­ists. Insur­rec­tion­ists who insti­gat­ed an attack on democ­ra­cy — that’s the fram­ing this speech need­ed, and Biden deliv­ered repeat­ed­ly. This was not an unruly mob that riot­ed, it was an attack orga­nized in advance with the pur­pose of keep­ing Trump in pow­er, ille­gal­ly and unconstitutionally. 

Trump won’t do what an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent must do.

He refus­es to denounce polit­i­cal violence.

So hear me clear­ly. I’ll say what Don­ald Trump won’t. Polit­i­cal vio­lence is nev­er, ever accept­able in the Unit­ed States polit­i­cal sys­tem. Nev­er, nev­er, never.

It has no place in a democ­ra­cy. None.

You can’t be pro-insur­rec­tion­ist and pro-American.

You know, Trump and his MAGA sup­port­ers not only embrace polit­i­cal vio­lence, but they laugh about it. At his ral­ly, he jokes about an intrud­er, whipped by the big Trump lie, tak­ing a ham­mer to Paul Pelosi’s skull, and echo­ing the very same words used on Jan­u­ary 6th. “Where’s Nancy?”

And he thinks that’s fun­ny. He laughed about it. What a sick… My God.

I — I think it’s despi­ca­ble. Seriously.

Not just for a pres­i­dent, for any per­son to say that.

But to say it to the whole world lis­ten­ing. When I was over­seas, anyway …

Trump’s assault on democ­ra­cy isn’t just part of his past. It’s what he’s promis­ing for the future. He’s been straight­for­ward. He’s not hid­ing the ball.

His first ral­ly for the 2024 cam­paign opened with a choir of Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion­ists singing from prison on a cell­phone while images of the Jan­u­ary sixth riot played on the big screen behind him at his rally.

Can you believe that?

This is like some­thing out of a fairy tale, a bad fairy tale.

Trump began his 2024 cam­paign by glo­ri­fy­ing the failed vio­lent insur­rec­tion­ist, insur­rec­tion at our, on our Capitol.

The guy who claims law and order sows law­less­ness and disorder.

Trump’s not con­cerned about your future, I promise you.

Trump is now promis­ing a full-scale cam­paign of revenge and ret­ri­bu­tion, his words, for some years to come. They were his words, not mine.

He went on to say he’d be a dic­ta­tor on day one. I mean, if I were writ­ing a book of fic­tion, and I said an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent said that, and not in jest.

He called and I quote, the ter­mi­nate, quote, this is a quote, the ter­mi­na­tion of all the rules, reg­u­la­tions and arti­cles, even those found in the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion should be ter­mi­nat­ed if it fits his will.

It’s real­ly kind of hard to believe.

Even found in the Con­sti­tu­tion, he could ter­mi­nate. He’s threat­ened the for­mer chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the death penalty.

He says he should be put to death because the chair­man put his oath to the Con­sti­tu­tion ahead of his per­son­al loy­al­ty to Trump.

This com­ing from a pres­i­dent who called, when he vis­it­ed his ceme­tery, called dead sol­diers “suck­ers and losers.” Remem­ber that?

Some­times I’m real­ly hap­py the Irish in me can’t be seen.

It was right around the time was at Beau’s grave. Tommy.

How dare he?

Who in God’s name does he think he is?

With for­mer aides, Trump plans to invoke the Insur­rec­tion­ist Act, Insur­rec­tion Act, which would allow him to deploy, he’s not allowed to do it in ordi­nary cir­cum­stances, allow him to deploy U.S. mil­i­tary forces on the streets of America.

He said it.

He calls those who opposed, oppose him vermin.

He talks about the blood of America’s is being poi­soned, echo­ing the same exact lan­guage used in Nazi Germany.

NPI com­men­tary: Excel­lent par­al­lel being drawn here with the dis­turb­ing events of the 1930s, in which fas­cist regimes in Ger­many, Italy, and Japan began seiz­ing ter­ri­to­ry and impris­on­ing or killing peo­ple they did not like or who they regard­ed as inferior. 

He proud­ly posts on social media the words that best describe his 2024 cam­paign. Quote, revenge, quote, pow­er, and quote, dictatorship.

There’s no con­fu­sion about who Trump is, what he intends do.

I placed my hand on our fam­i­ly Bible, and I swore an oath on the very same steps of the Capi­tol just 14 days after the attack on Jan­u­ary the 6th.

As I looked out over the cap­i­tal city, whose streets were lined with Nation­al Guard to pre­vent anoth­er attack, I saw an Amer­i­can that had been pushed to the brink, an Amer­i­ca that had been pushed to the brink.

But I felt enor­mous pride — not in win­ning. I felt enor­mous pride in Amer­i­ca, because Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy had been tested.

Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy had held together.

And when Trump had seen weak­ness in our democ­ra­cy and con­tin­ued to talk about it, I saw strength. Your strength, it’s not hyperbole.

Your strength, your integri­ty, Amer­i­can strength and integrity.

Ordi­nary cit­i­zens, state elec­tion offi­cials, the Amer­i­can judi­cial sys­tem, had put the Con­sti­tu­tion first, and some­times at their per­il, at their peril.

Because of them.

Because of you.

The will of the peo­ple prevailed.

Not the anger of the mob or the appetites of one man.

When the attack on Jan­u­ary 6th hap­pened, there was no doubt about the truth.

At the time, even Repub­li­can mem­bers of Con­gress and Fox News com­men­ta­tors pub­licly and pri­vate­ly con­demned the attack. As one Repub­li­can sen­a­tor said, Trump’s behav­ior was embar­rass­ing and humil­i­at­ing for the country.

But now that same sen­a­tor and those same peo­ple have changed their tune.

As time has gone on, gone on, pol­i­tics, fear, mon­ey, all have intervened.

NPI com­men­tary: The line “As time has gone on, pol­i­tics, fear, mon­ey, all have inter­vened” is pow­er­ful and accurate. 

And now these MAGA voic­es, who know the truth about Trump on Jan­u­ary 6th, have aban­doned the truth and aban­doned the democracy.

They made their choice. Now, the rest of us, Democ­rats, inde­pen­dents, main­stream Repub­li­cans, we have to make our choice.

I know mine, and I believe I know America’s.

We’ll defend the truth, not give in to the big lie.

We’ll embrace the Con­sti­tu­tion [and] the Dec­la­ra­tion, not aban­don it.

We’ll hon­or the sacred cause of democ­ra­cy, not walk away from it.

Today, I make this sacred pledge to you: The defense, pro­tec­tion and preser­va­tion of Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy will remain, as it has been, the cen­tral cause of my pres­i­den­cy. Amer­i­ca, as we begin this elec­tion year, we must be clear: Democ­ra­cy is on the bal­lot. Your free­dom is on the ballot.

Yes, we’ll be vot­ing on many issues: on the free­dom to vote, and have your vote count­ed. On the free­dom of choice.

The free­dom to have a fair shot.

The free­dom from fear.

And we’ll debate and disagree.

With­out democ­ra­cy, no progress is impos­si­ble. Think about it. The alter­na­tive to democ­ra­cy is dic­ta­tor­ship. The rule of one, not the rule of we, the people.

That’s what the sol­diers of Val­ley Forge understood.

So was me, we have to under­stand it as well.

We’ve been blessed so long with a strong, sta­ble democ­ra­cy, it’s easy to for­get why so many before us risked their lives and strength­ened democracy.

What our lives would be with­out it.

Democ­ra­cy means hav­ing the free­dom to speak your mind, to be who you are, to be who you want to be.

Democ­ra­cy is about being able to bring about peace­ful change.

Democ­ra­cy. Democ­ra­cy is how we open the doors of oppor­tu­ni­ty wider and wider with each suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tion, not notwith­stand­ing our mistakes.

But if democ­ra­cy falls, we’ll lose that free­dom, we’ll lose the pow­er of we, the peo­ple, to shape our destiny.

If you doubt me, look around the world.

Trav­el with me as I meet with oth­er heads of state through­out the world.

Look at the author­i­tar­i­an lead­ers and dic­ta­tors Trump says he admires. He out loud says he admires. I won’t go through them all. It would take too long.

NPI com­men­tary: The “it would take too long” com­ment is a nice zinger that rein­forces how deep Trump’s love of author­i­tar­i­an­ism is. 

Look, remem­ber how he first, how he refers to what he calls love let­ter exchanges between he and the dic­ta­tor of North Korea?

Those women and men out there in the audi­ence who’s ever fought for an Amer­i­can mil­i­tary. Did you ever believe you’d hear a pres­i­dent say some­thing like that? His admi­ra­tion for Putin? I could go on.

And look at what these auto­crats are doing to lim­it free­dom in their countries.

They’re lim­it­ing free­dom of speech, free­dom of press, free­dom to assem­ble, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, peo­ple are going to jail. So much more.

It’s true. The push and pull of Amer­i­can his­to­ry is not a fairy tale. Every stride for­ward in Amer­i­ca is met with fero­cious back­lash, many times, from those who fear progress and those who exploit that fear for their own per­son­al gain.

From those who traf­fic in lies, told for pow­er and prof­it. For those who are dri­ven by griev­ance and grift, con­sumed by con­spir­a­cy and victimhood.

From those who seek to bury his­to­ry and ban books.

Did you ever think you’d be at a polit­i­cal event and talk about book ban­ning, for a pres­i­den­tial and a pres­i­den­tial election?

The choice in con­test between those forces, those com­pet­ing forces, between sol­i­dar­i­ty and divi­sion, is peren­ni­al. But this time it’s so different.

You can’t have a con­test, you can’t have a con­test, if you see pol­i­tics as an all-out war instead of a peace­ful way to resolve our differences.

All-out war is what Trump wants.

That’s why he doesn’t under­stand the most fun­da­men­tal truth about this country.

Unlike oth­er nations on Earth, Amer­i­ca is not built on eth­nic­i­ty, reli­gion, geog­ra­phy. We’re the only nation in the his­to­ry of the world built on an idea, not hyper­bole, built on an idea. We hold these truths to be self-evi­dent that all men and women are cre­at­ed equal.

It’s an idea, declared in the Dec­la­ra­tion, cre­at­ed in a way that we’ve viewed every­body as equal and should be treat­ed equal through­out their lives.

We’ve nev­er ful­ly lived up to that. We have a long way to go, but we’ve nev­er walked away from the idea. We’ve nev­er walked away from it.

And I promise you, I will not let Don­ald Trump and the MAGA Repub­li­cans force us to walk away now.

We’re liv­ing in an era where a deter­mined minor­i­ty is doing every­thing in its pow­er to try to destroy our democ­ra­cy for their own agenda.

The Amer­i­can peo­ple know it, and they’re stand­ing brave­ly in the breach.

Remem­ber, after 2020, Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion to undo the elec­tion in which more Amer­i­cans had vot­ed than any oth­er in Amer­i­can history.

Amer­i­ca saw the threat posed to the coun­try and they vot­ed them out in 2022. His­toric midterm elec­tion. In state after state, elec­tion after elec­tion, the elec­tion deniers were defeated.

Now, in 2024, Trump is run­ning as the denier-in-chief, the elec­tion denier-in-chief.

Once again, he’s say­ing he won’t hon­or the results of the elec­tion if he loses.

Trump says he doesn’t under­stand, or he still doesn’t under­stand the basic truth. That is, you can’t love your coun­try only when you win.

You can’t love your coun­try only when you win.

I’ll keep my com­mit­ment to be pres­i­dent for all of Amer­i­ca. Whether you vot­ed for me or not, I’ve done it for the last three years and I’ll con­tin­ue to do it.

Togeth­er, we can keep prov­ing that Amer­i­ca is still a coun­try that believes in decen­cy, dig­ni­ty, hon­esty, hon­or, truth.

We still believe that no one, not even the pres­i­dent, is above the law. We still believe the vast major­i­ty of us still believe that every­one deserves a fair shot at mak­ing. We’re still a nation that gives hate no safe harbor.

I tell you from my expe­ri­ence work­ing with lead­ers around the world, and I mean this sin­cere­ly, not a joke, that Amer­i­ca is still viewed as a bea­con of democ­ra­cy for the world. I can’t tell you how many, how many world lead­ers, and I know all of them, vir­tu­al­ly all of them, grab my arm in pri­vate and say, “He can’t win. Tell me. No, my coun­try will be at risk.”

Think of how many coun­tries, Tom­my, you know that are on the edge.

Imag­ine.

We still believe in we the peo­ple, and that includes all of us. Not some of us.

NPI com­men­tary: “You can’t love your coun­try only when you win” is not a new line, but it works well here. Biden also briefly switch­es the lens of the speech by explain­ing how Amer­i­ca’s allies are look­ing at the upcom­ing elec­tion, before return­ing to the main theme. 

Let me close with this.

In the cold win­ter of 1777, George Wash­ing­ton and his Amer­i­can troops to Val­ley Forge waged a bat­tle on behalf of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary idea, that every­day peo­ple like where I come from, and the vast major­i­ty of you, not a king or a dic­ta­tor, that every­day peo­ple can gov­ern them­selves with­out a king or a dictator.

In fact, in the rotun­da of the Capi­tol, there’s a giant paint­ing of Gen­er­al George Wash­ing­ton, not Pres­i­dent Wash­ing­ton. And he is resign­ing his com­mis­sion as com­man­der-in-chief of the Con­ti­nen­tal Army.

A Euro­pean king at the time said after he won the rev­o­lu­tion, now’s the time for him to declare his king­ship. But instead, the mob that attacked the Capi­tol, wav­ing Trump flags and Con­fed­er­ate flags, stormed right past that portrait.

That image of George Wash­ing­ton gave them no pause, but it should have.

The artist who paint­ed that por­trait memo­ri­al­ized that moment because he said it was, quote, one of the high­est moral lessons ever giv­en to the world, end of quote. George Wash­ing­ton was the height of his pow­er, hav­ing just defeat­ed the most pow­er­ful empire on Earth.

Could have held on to pow­er as long as he want­ed. He could have made him­self not a future pres­i­dent, but a future monarch, in effect.

And by the way, when he got elect­ed pres­i­dent, he could have stayed for two, three, four or five terms till he died.

But that wasn’t the Amer­i­ca he and the Amer­i­can troops at Val­ley Forge had fought for. In Amer­i­ca, gen­uine lead­ers, demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers with a small d don’t hold on to pow­er relent­less­ly. Our lead­ers return pow­er to the peo­ple and they do it will­ing­ly because that’s the deal. You do your duty. You serve your country.

And ours is a coun­try wor­thy of ser­vice as many Repub­li­can pres­i­dents and Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­dents have shown over the years.

We’re not per­fect, but at our best, we face on, we face head on the good, the bad, the truth of who we are.

We look in the mir­ror and ulti­mate­ly nev­er pre­tend we’re some­thing we’re not.

That’s what great nations do. And we’re a great nation. We’re the great­est nation on the face of the earth. We real­ly are.

That’s the Amer­i­ca I see in our future.

We get up. We car­ry on.

We nev­er bow. We nev­er bend.

We speak of pos­si­bil­i­ties, not car­nage. We’re not weighed down by grievances.

We don’t fos­ter fear. We don’t walk around as victims.

We take charge of our des­tiny. We get our job done with the help of the peo­ple we find in Amer­i­ca, who find their place in a chang­ing world and dream and build a future that not only they but all peo­ple deserve a shot at.

We don’t believe, none of you believe Amer­i­ca is failing.

We know Amer­i­ca is winning.

That’s Amer­i­can patriotism.

It’s not win­ning because of Joe Biden. It’s winning.

This is the first nation­al elec­tion since Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion placed a dag­ger at the throat of Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy. Since that moment. We all know who Don­ald Trump is. The ques­tion we have to answer is: Who are we?

That’s what’s at stake. Who are we? In the year ahead, as you talk to your fam­i­ly and friends, cast your bal­lots, the pow­er is in your hands.

After all we’ve been through in our his­to­ry, from inde­pen­dence to civ­il war to two world wars to a pan­dem­ic to insur­rec­tion, I refuse to believe that in 2024 we Amer­i­cans will choose to walk away from what’s made us the great­est nation in the his­to­ry of the world.

NPI com­men­tary: Biden is mak­ing it abun­dant­ly clear here that he will not shirk from the fight ahead nor lose faith in Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy. He’s not giv­ing in to fear, cyn­i­cism, or pes­simism. No one else who wants Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy to endure should either. 

Free­dom, lib­er­ty. Democ­ra­cy is still a sacred cause, and there’s no coun­try in the world bet­ter posi­tioned to lead the world than America.

That’s why, I’ve said it many times, that’s why I’ve nev­er been more opti­mistic about our future, and I’ve been doing this a hell of a long time.

Just to remem­ber who we are.

With patience and for­ti­tude, with one heart, we are the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, for God’s sake. I mean it.

There’s noth­ing. I believe with every fiber there’s noth­ing beyond our capac­i­ty if we act togeth­er and decent­ly with one another.

Noth­ing. Noth­ing. Nothing.

I mean it. We’re the only nation in the world that’s come out of every cri­sis stronger than we went into that cri­sis. And that was true yesterday.

It is true today. And I guar­an­tee you will be true tomorrow.

God bless you all. And may God pro­tect our troops.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts

One reply on “Watch President Biden’s Valley Forge speech on upholding American democracy”

Comments are closed.