PARIS — Eschewing global politics, President Donald Trump paid tribute Sunday to Americans who lost their lives in World War I while avoiding references to current tensions with allies.
"The American and French patriots of World War I embody the timeless virtues of our two republics," Trump said during a gloomy, rainy day at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial in Paris.
Trump spoke of the horrors that Americans, the French and others faced in places like Belleau Wood, and the ultimate sacrifices that so many made in fighting for freedom. Suresnes holds the remains of 1,541 Americans who died in World War I, which ended 100 years ago Sunday.
“It is our duty to preserve the civilization they defended,” Trump said. “We renew our sacred obligation to memorialize our fallen heroes."
At one point, Trump – criticized for skipping a cemetery ceremony Saturday because of rain – lauded guests who watched the speech while under shelter "as we're getting drenched ... you're very smart people."
Trump also lauded the physical condition of at least one surviving veteran, telling him: "I hope I look like that some day – you look great."
The cemetery visit capped a weekend trip to Paris devoted to events marking the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I. Trump returns to the White House on Sunday night.
At an armistice ceremony earlier in the day, President Emmanuel Macron of France appeared to be referencing Trump's "America First" foreign policy as he denounced "nationalism" that too often encourages countries to engage in conflict.
"Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism," Macron told a gathering of world leaders that included Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Macron told fellow leaders they have a have a "huge responsibility" to defeat modern forces that threaten a "legacy of peace" from the two world wars of the past century.
"I know there are old demons coming back to the surface," he said. "They are ready to wreak chaos and death."
If Trump took the comment personally, he didn't show it publicly. In his cemetery speech, Trump called the earlier event "very beautiful" and "well done."
Trump also paid tribute to Veterans Day back in the United States. Noting the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, he tweeted that "we honor the brave HEROES who fought for America in the Great War, and every Veteran who has worn the uniform and kept our Nation Safe, Strong and FREE!"
The president's appearances came a day after he took heat for canceling a Saturday trip to another cemetery, one near Belleau Wood. The White House cited rainy weather, saying it would have created problems for the choppers that would have ferried the president.
"Even if the helicopters couldn’t fly, he could’ve driven," said Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "He must just be afraid of a little rain."