Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again Hardcover Donald Trump (2016)
LUCKY TO BE AN AMERICAN
I KNOW HOW LUCKY I am. The day I was born I had already won the greatest lottery on Earth. I was born in the United States of America. With that came the amazing opportunities that every American citizen has: The right to become the best possible person you can be. The right to be treated equally with all other Americans. The right to speak freely (and by the way I take that right very seriously). The right to practice the religion of your choice the way you choose. The right to achieve as much as your own hard work and talent allow. The right to be secure in your home thanks to the greatest law enforcement agencies anywhere, and the privilege of raising your family knowing that you are protected by the men and women of the finest military forces in the world.
I think my parents must have known how proud I would be to be an American: I was born on Flag Day, June 14!
I’ll tell you how proud I am to be an American. You may have heard that I own a house in Palm Beach, Florida. It’s called Mar-a-Lago, which means “Sea to Lake.” It has 128 rooms. It’s listed as a National Historic Landmark because it is one of the most beautiful homes ever built. It was built by E. F. Hutton and his cereal heiress wife, Marjorie Merriweather Post, in 1927.
The land it sits on is reportedly the most valuable 20 acres of land in Florida. After I bought it, I wanted people to know how proud and grateful I am to be an American, so I decided to fly an American flag in front of my house, an American flag that nobody could miss, a flag fitting for this beautiful house.
So I raised an extra-large flag, 15 feet by 25 feet on an 80-foot-high flagpole.
Watching that flag catch the wind and fly proudly was a beautiful sight. Except the city of Palm Beach decided my flag was too big. They claimed it exceeded zoning regulations. Who knew there was a law about the size of flag you are allowed to fly? When I politely informed them I had no intention of taking down my American flag, they began fining me $250 a day until I removed it.
As I said at the time, “The town council of Palm Beach should be ashamed of itself. They’re fining me for putting up the American flag. The day you need a permit to put up an American flag, that will be a very sad day for this country.”
My guess is you know what I did next. I filed a lawsuit against the town for $25 million, claiming my First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights were being violated. As we wrote in that lawsuit, “A smaller flag and pole on Mar-a-Lago’s property would be lost given the property’s massive size, look silly instead of making a statement, and most importantly would fail to appropriately express the magnitude of Donald J. Trump’s and the club members’ patriotism.”
Those fines added up to $120,000 by the time we had worked out a deal with the city. Rather than paying the fine, I donated $100,000 to Iraq War veterans’ charities.
I actually thought that issue was done, but in 2014 the city of Rancho Palos Verdes, California, wanted me to lower the 70-foot-high flagpole flying over my golf course on the Pacific Ocean. One of the officials who wanted me to lower it admitted, “This flag now has become a symbol, and to the people in this community this flag symbolizes patriotism.” So we won that fight!
As we all know, the flag is much more than a red, white, and blue cloth rectangle. It is a symbol to me, to you, and to people around the world. It represents equality, hope, and fairness. It represents great courage and sacrifice.
Everyone has heard me talking about our immigration problem. Well, there is an important reason that people are willing to risk their lives to get into this country. In 2015, more than 4.4 million people had applied and were waiting to legally emigrate to the United States—that list even includes more than 50,000 Iranians. For people coming from some countries, the estimated waiting period is 33 years. We also have somewhere between 12 and 15 million people here legally on green cards or temporary visas. Nobody knows how many illegal immigrants are here, but the usual estimate is more than 11 million people.
For the last several years I’ve been watching things change. Like most of you, I don’t like what has been happening. I was asked by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press when the last time was that I thought America was living up to its promise. During the administration of Ronald Reagan, I said. It was a time when we felt so proud to be Americans.
I’ve spent my entire career standing up for this country. There is a writer on a conservative site who doesn’t like me at all. I understand that—these people all have their favorite politicians. But even while he was calling me some nasty names he wrote, “And tell me: Why is Donald Trump . . . the only candidate willing to unambiguously state that the first duty of American politicians is to American citizens? Would those who disagree kindly provide us with a list of their priorities, showing us exactly where they think American citizens fall?”
I believe in always putting the interests of American citizens first—always. There aren’t any second or third places. That level of commitment is what has been missing for so long in our foreign policy, in our trade policy, in our immigration policy. Somewhere we started worrying too much about what other countries thought about us. Does anybody reading this believe that I’m concerned about making other countries feel good? They used to fear us. They used to want to be us. We were respected.
Many years ago my daughter Ivanka went to what was then Czechoslovakia to visit her mother’s family. At that time it was a Communist country. She told me that the Czechs would tape American currency to the windshield of their cars, even if it was just a dollar bill, to show how proud they were to have anything from America. Even a one-dollar bill—they just wanted that association with America. Now? Now they’re laughing at us. There’s an old phrase that, sadly, you rarely hear anymore: “Made in America.” We will start saying this again—in spades. We’re unique. In case there’s any doubt, that is exactly what I believe.
One way I have always shown my patriotism is by strongly supporting our military. We haven’t been doing such a good job of that lately, but that needs to change. Our military must have all the manpower and the tools it needs to fulfill any mission. I like to say that the United States military should be so strong that we will never have to use it.
I was absolutely horrified to find out that we have been sending our soldiers into combat situations without the best available protection. It wasn’t so long ago that parents were raising money at home to buy additional available protection and sending it to their kids in combat. I couldn’t believe it. We need to make this promise to our fighting forces: No American will ever go into the field unless he or she has the best equipment available and as much of it as is needed. And when our troops come home, we are going to take good care of them. They are going to have the medical care they’ve earned. They are going to be respected for their service. The way we treat our veterans today is a disgrace, and that needs to change.
Unlike a lot of politicians, my active involvement with our veterans began more than two decades ago, when only about one hundred spectators turned out to watch New York’s annual Veterans Day parade. In that case this country was “celebrating” the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.
A hundred spectators? It was humiliating. It was an insult to those men and women who had literally saved the world for democracy. One hundred people.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani and I decided to do something about it. I donated a one-million-dollar matching grant to finance a second parade. On November 11, I walked down Fifth Avenue with 25,000 veterans, many of them dressed in their uniforms, as an estimated 1.4 million spectators cheered them. That was a parade worthy of their sacrifice, and one of N.Y.’s biggest ever.
A month later, I was honored at the Pentagon at a lunch attended by the secretary of defense and the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff. Since that time I’ve actively supported veterans’ causes and hired veterans throughout my organization.
Currently the biggest crisis our veterans are facing is getting the medical care they were promised. We’ve got young men and women who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan and have to fight to get the treatment they need and were promised. We made a contract with all our veterans and we’re not delivering. How in the world can we talk about how much we love this country when we’re not taking care of the people who protect us? In September I said we need to take the existing system apart. We need to create a whole new system. We have to, and it will really work.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is probably the most incompetently run agency in the United States government. And that’s saying something. If it was one of my companies, the people running it would have been fired a long time ago. The problem is that there are too many political people involved within its operation. It is astonishing that illegal immigrants in many cases are treated better than our veterans. The taxpayers pay more than $150 billion a year for the VA, and what do we get for that?
The Las Vegas Review-Journal summed it up correctly in 2014, saying, “The Department of Veterans Affairs finally is under intense scrutiny for its bogus waiting lists and the unconscionable treatment delays that have caused an untold number of preventable patient deaths. But new information shows that malfeasance, malpractice, and outright corruption within the VA is worse than Americans could have imagined—much worse.”
That needs to end. Right now the VA is being run by people who don’t know what they’re doing. They’re getting more money from the government than ever before and yet the care gets worse. The list of men and women waiting for care is growing and their wait times are longer. How can the VA possibly be so inefficient? We need to put people in charge who know how to run big operations. We have to get the best managers and give them the power, the money, and the tools to get the job done. We owe our veterans nothing less.
One way or another, we are going to take care of our veterans. If the VA hospitals can’t do the job, then the veterans go to private doctors, private hospitals. The government will reimburse those doctors and those hospitals because we must fulfill our obligation to our veterans.
Finally, jobs: What kind of country sends their young men and women off to fight for them and then, when they come back, tells them, “Sorry, but while you were gone other people got all the jobs”?
Getting a good job is hard, but it’s even more difficult for a veteran. Too many veterans find themselves struggling to find an opportunity. They have been out of the job market, often for several years. So we need a program that recognizes the sacrifices they made for all of us and puts them right back in the middle of the job market.
Being born in this country is a matter of luck. Being grateful and proud of this country and what it represents and honoring the people who have protected it is a privilege I am proud to share with all Americans.