U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley spoke at Duke University Thursday and credited the Trump administration with strengthening American leadership role at the U.N.
She criticized previous administrations for being too deferential to international opinion, saying she is not hesitant to resist the majority at the U.N. She described how the U.N.’s Security Council and Human Rights Council regularly single out Israel but leave authoritarian regimes alone.
"Soon after coming to the U.N. last year, we decided we weren’t going to silently accept that anymore. Israel is our great friend," Haley said to applause. "And Israel is a lonely voice for democracy and human dignity in the Middle East."
"We’ve made these changes to have the back of our friend and ally Israel, absolutely, but we’re also sending the message that the era of the United States leading from behind is over," she added.
Haley also drew attention to the administration's willingness to reverse former President Barack Obama’s attempts at closer ties with Cuba. She said that action "broke faith" with Cuban exiles and political prisoners, and said Obama did not demand any changes from the Cuban government.
"The previous administration chose to ease sanctions on the Castro regime in Cuba without demanding respect for the human rights of the Cuban people in return," she said.
She noted that it has been easy not to take a hard line regarding Israel and Cuba, although that was not the right thing to do.
"It’s often just easier not to rock the boat. When the crowd is all going one way, it’s sometimes hard to be the only one going in the other direction," she said. "But in America, we don’t celebrate the mob, we celebrate the person who has the courage and conviction to stand up to the mob."
Haley framed all these actions in terms of the American commitment to human rights.
"[The U.S.’s] most effective leadership is, in fact, when we lead by example, when we embrace the fact that we are a special nation with a special message to the world: Each of us, every single one of us, has God-given rights that cannot be denied," she said.