During an appearance on Meet The Press on Sunday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recounted the advice Barack Obama gave him before the former president left office. While reminiscing on those words of wisdom, Trudeau accidentally came up with a phrase that would make for a seriously catchy motto. Obama's previously private comments came to light as excerpts of longtime Obama staffer Ben Rhodes' book started to make their way into the public.
In his memoir, The World As It Is, Rhodes recounts a conversation between Obama and Trudeau. Meet the Press host Chuck Todd read Obama's comments back to Trudeau:
"Justin, your voice is going to be needed more," he said, leaning forward and putting his elbows on his knees. "You're going to have to speak out when certain values are threatened."
When asked what he took away from that conversation, Trudeau said he saw it as recognition of his country's contributions to world affairs. "What I took from it was something that was deeply reassuring," he told the broadcaster. "People recognize that Canadians, when we show up either as, you know, troops on the ground in a peace-keeping mission or as aid workers or as bureaucrats trying to rebuild an economy or help a multilateral institution, Canadians are there to help."
Trudeau said these are qualities usually associated with Canadians that he hopes everyone will recognize. "We are thoughtful. We are engaged. We are polite. We are welcoming. But we're also firm about our values," he said.
After recounting Canada's contributions in both world wars, Trudeau continued and inadvertently coined what sounds like a new Canadian slogan for his administration as it interacts with the Trump White House. "We're going to be polite, but we’re also not going to be pushed around," Trudeau said.
Despite the quintessential turn of phrase, Trudeau continued, adding that Canada has a responsibility to defend its citizens and citizens of the world. "And that need to be firm about projecting our values and defending not just our citizens, but citizens around the world in positive ways is what I consider the responsibility we have as Canadians and what I'll do as leader," he added.
Trudeau's opinions on foreign policy and Canada's place on the world stage have become even more relevant in the past week as President Donald Trump announced tariffs in March that originally exempted key allies like Canada. Last week, the exemption expired, according to the Associated Press, and tariffs on Canadian, Mexican, and European steel and aluminum went into effect. Canada announced retaliatory tariffs on steel and other products on Thursday.
Later in the interview with Meet the Press, Trudeau said the reason for the tariffs — national security — was completely unwarranted on an ally. "The idea that we are somehow a national security threat to the United States is, quite frankly, insulting and unacceptable," Trudeau told NBC.
The prime minister said he was concerned about how the dueling tariffs will impact both economies. "Our economies are incredibly interwoven, and there is an absolute path towards improving NAFTA and doing well on that," he said. "The fact that the president has moved forward with these tariffs is not just going to hurt Canadian jobs. It's going to hurt U.S. jobs as well."
Trudeau said previous conversations with Trump led him to believe that the two leaders were on the same page.
"And, quite frankly, a year ago, when I talked with the president about, about the possibility of two-three-two tariffs on steel and aluminum, he agreed that it would be insulting to consider Canada as part of the, part of the national security concern," Trudeau told NBC. "So, for me, that really doesn't make sense."