On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, President Donald Trump delivered his “Salute to America” speech that side-stepped politics and focused on the military, American history and cultural moments that ranged from the Revolutionary War to the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.
“Hello America, hello,” Trump said at the start of what he promised to be the “show of a lifetime” that in the end, was a more subdued, rain-soaked and patriotic tribute to the Fourth of July.
“Today, we come together as one nation with this very special Salute to America,” Trump said. “We celebrate our history, our people, and the heroes who proudly defend our flag — the brave men and women of the United States military.”
“On this day, 243 years ago, our founding fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, to declare Independence and defend our god-given rights,” the president said. “That same American spirit that emboldened our founders has kept us strong throughout our history. … It is the spirit, daring, and defiance, excellence and adventure, courage and confidence, loyalty and love, that built this country into the most exceptional nation in the history of the world, and our nation is stronger today than it ever was before. It is its strongest now.”
Despite concerns about the president politicizing the speech, the president stuck to the script for the unprecedented presidential spectacle, with Air Force One flying overhead as the first lady and president walked out.
Throughout the president’s speech, figures from American history in the audience like Apollo Mission Flight Director Gene Krantz and Clarence Henderson, one of the African American students who participated in the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins, were recognized with applause. After recognizing Krantz, the president proclaimed that the U.S. would soon put an American flag on Mars.
After his main remarks, the president invited acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford to stand at his side while he gave short speeches about each branch of military. After short remarks, the branch’s service song was played before a dramatic flyover.
“What a great country,” the president said, after a B-2 stealth bomber and F22 raptors soared overhead.
“Salute to America” ended with Navy Blue Angels soaring over the crowds.
While the event didn’t face a rain delay, rain was still front in center. The president stood in front of a protective glass barrier that was dripping in raindrops and prevented a crystal clear view of the president.
The president was joined on the stage by Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence, as well as cabinet members like Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, wearing a rain poncho, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Labor Secretary Alex Acosta.
Earlier on Thursday, the nation’s capital held its traditional National Independence Day Parade down Constitution Avenue and “A Capitol Fourth Concert” at the U.S. Capitol.
There was a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence outside the National Archives and inside, Pence spoke before 44 people were sworn in during a naturalization ceremony.
You can read the rest of Meridith McGraw and Elizabeth Thomas’ article at ABCnews.com