Donald Trump’s speech at the World Economic Forum conference today was hotly anticipated. But it was actually Klaus Schwab, the forum’s founder and executive chairman, who made more of an impact on the room.
After a band played on stage at the Congress Centre in Davos, Switzerland, with Trump and Klaus standing side-by-side, Schwab introduced the US president with a congratulatory speech, making his support clear.
“Mr. President, the role of the United States and your personal leadership is absolutely essential. For this reason, your message here has tremendous relevance. Of course, I’m aware that your strong leadership is open to misconceptions and biased interpretations,” said Schwab. When his words were met by hisses and faint boos from the audience, he continued, speaking louder, “so it is so essential for us in the room to listen directly to you.”
A number of Davos attendees had been rumored to plan a walk-out of Trump’s speech, in retaliation for his statements describing African countries as “shitholes.” Schwab set a more conciliatory tone by referring to a previous speech in which Trump said the word “sovereignty” 21 times.
This forum, as it has nearly done for nearly five decades should create a base for dialogue, global cooperation, and I quote you, Mr. President, ‘strong sovereign nations with different values, different cultures, and different dreams do not just coexist, they work side-by-side on the basis of mutual respect.
Trump’s remarks were mild and unsurprising, highlighting the importance of fair trade and praising the performance of the US stock market, and Schwab’s careful questions to Trump offered an opportunity for Trump to expand on his presidency’s successes. The president also took advantage of a question about his personal history to scold the press for publishing negative coverage, claiming that he had never faced such criticism before.
Despite Schwab’s role as the chairman of international global elite, a group that has often been criticized by Trump and his most extreme supporters, his closing remarks were warm:
“Thank you very much Mr. President. for being with us. The World Economic Forum community who is assembled here will certainly, and I quote you from the last piece of your remarks, ‘will be certainly among the hard working men and women who does their duty each and every day, making this world a better place, for everyone.’ Thank you very much.”
Read more: “No fire and no fury”: A listless Trump leaves Davos shrugging