Trump Speaks During Controversial (and Rainy) 'Salute to America' July Fourth Event
Tanks, fireworks, a speech from President Donald Trump — and a giant blimp in his likeness — were all part of this year’s July Fourth celebrations in Washington, D.C.
The festivities dubbed “Salute to America” showcased “the strongest and most advanced military” in the world, “incredible flyovers” and the “biggest ever” fireworks, according to Trump, 73.
The Commander-in-Chief had tanks displayed beside the Lincoln Memorial, where his “Salute to America” speech took place, despite concern from National Park Service officials that the military equipment might damage the site, the Washington Post reports.
At 6:30 p.m., Trump took the stage to deliver a speech to the crowd, who eagerly waited in the rainy, wet conditions.
He began his lengthy and historic speech — aside from speaking for nearly an hour, it was also the first to be delivered by the nation’s president on Independence Day in more than seven decades, according to The Guardian — with a greeting to the crowd.
“Hello, America! The first lady and I wish every one of you a truly happy Independence Day. Today we come together as one nation, with this very special salute to America,” he began.
Trump used his time on stage to give shout-outs to each of the U.S. military branches, including the Army, Navy, Air force, Coast Guard, Marines “and very soon, Space Force,” he said, with accompanying fly-overs for each branch.
After telling the history behind Independence Day, Trump noted that the American spirit “built this country into the most exceptional nation in history and it is stronger now that it ever was before, it is at its strongest now,” prompting a “USA” chant from the crowd.
He went on to highlight the country’s accomplishments through the years, including the invention of the light bulb by Thomas Edison, landing on the moon (which he said the U.S. will soon do on Mars) and successes in the arts and automobile industries.
At one point in his speech, Trump celebrated both the suffrage and civil rights movements and later urged people to “join our military and make a truly great statement in life,” despite not serving himself, before finishing with some final notes.
“As long as we stay true to our purpose … as long as we never ever stop fighting for a better future, there will be nothing that America cannot do,” he said. “The future belongs to the brave, the strong, the proud and the free. We all share the same heroes, the same home, the same heart, and we are all made by the same Almighty God.”
“The spirit of America will never fade, never fail, but will reign forever and ever and ever!” he finished, before inviting Melania Trump onto the podium beside him.
The “really big” celebration drew protestors to the capital because of its perceived militaristic and political nature — some felt as though Trump hijacked the holiday for his own promotion.
“He’s kidnapped our holiday, and it’s not right,” Deb McKern told the Washington Post while protesting.
Code Pink, a feminist anti-war group, displayed a balloon effigy of the president on the National Mall across from the World War II Memorial and blew whistles throughout the president’s speech, the Washington Post reported.
Normally a non-partisan event, the Trump Administration invited the Republican National Committee members to the celebration and gave tickets for the president’s speech.
When asked about the tickets to the July Fourth celebration on Tuesday at a press conference, Trump’s senior advisor Kellyanne Conway asked the reporter, “Do you know the Fourth of July is a celebration of this country’s independence? Are you aware of that?” She said that his question ignored the celebration’s underlying patriotism.
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Conway also referred the press to the Department of Defense when asked about the event’s estimated costs, which have reportedly racked up. The Department of Defense has also not commented on the cost.
Without specific costs confirmed, Trump tweeted ahead of the event that Thursday’s price tag “will be very little compared to what it is worth.”
“We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all,” he tweeted.
The planes that were included in the airshows and flyovers reportedly cost $10,000 to $30,000 per hour to fly and also restricted air travel from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, according to the Washington Post. And the estimated transport cost for the tanks is $870,000, an aide told USA Today.
In addition to this, the Washington Post reported that the National Park Service would be using $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees for the celebration.
A Veteran’s Day military parade that Trump planned for last November was canceled after estimated costs were reportedly $92 million, tens of millions of dollars over budget, according to Fortune.
Trump’s event aside, some D.C. traditions continued as normal.
PBS’ “A Capitol Fourth” began airing from the West Lawn following his event and will include music from Vanessa Williams, Carol King and Colbie Caillat, as well as appearances from Sesame Street favorites.
While the show was included in the Department of the Interior’s itinerary, King was quick to differentiate the annual PBS special from Trump’s “political rally” in a tweet last week.
In the cartoon King tweeted, President Trump is “so far away” from the singer and her piano, presumably signaling his separation from the D.C. tradition.