The guest book entry provides an opportunity to contrast Trump's style with that of his predecessor, Barack Obama, who spent an hour at Yad Vashem and gave an emotional speech in 2013. Obama had already visited once, in 2008, when he was an Illinois senator running for president. On that trip, he left this note in the guest book:
“I am grateful to Yad Vashem and all of those responsible for this remarkable institution. At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man's potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world. Let our children come here, and know this history, so that they can add their voices to proclaim 'never again'. And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit.”
Although Trump and Obama's styles certainly differed, their speeches echoed the sentiment that is imbued in the post-Holocaust credo: “Never forget.”
“Millions of wonderful and beautiful lives, men, women and children were extinguished as part of a systematic attempt to eliminate the Jewish people,” Trump said Tuesday. “It is our solemn duty to remember, to mourn, to grieve, and to honor every single life that was so cruelly and viciously taken.”
He referred to the Holocaust as “history's darkest hour.” Yad Vashem's chairman, Avner Shalev, gifted Trump an exact replica of a photo album that belonged to Ester Goldstein, a 16-year-old Holocaust victim.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for a speech “that in so few words said so much.” On Twitter, many users noted that Trump's guestbook entry tallied up less than 140 characters, and wondered if the president's prolific tweeting had sneaked its way into his writing style more generally.
Obama, as was his tendency, opted for loftier, more conceptual rhetoric in his speech, in which he appealed to the “better angels of our nature.”
“For us, in our time, this means confronting bigotry and hatred in all of its forms, racism, especially anti-Semitism. None of that has a place in the civilized world — not in the classrooms of children; not in the corridors of power,” Obama said during his 2013 visit. “And let us never forget the link between the two. For our sons and daughters are not born to hate, they are taught to hate. So let us fill their young hearts with the same understanding and compassion that we hope others have for them.”
George W. Bush visited Yad Vashem in 2008. His guest book inscription got straight to the point, with just three words: “God Bless Israel.”