President Trump struck a patriotic, nonpartisan and unifying note during his address at Fourth of July celebrations in Washington, D.C., as the massive crowd of attendees avoided clashes despite provocations from protesters.
The event defied the critics who said the celebration on Thursday would be a partisan political spectacle that would not even attract a significant crowd. CBS, ABC, NBC, and MSNBC snubbed the celebration and didn’t air it live, save for their online streaming platforms.
Yet a massive crowd gathered on the Lincoln Memorial despite the rain, with Trump later tweeting an aerial photo showing an audience that filled both sides of the memorial’s Reflecting Pool and stretched to the Washington Monument.
The president used the speech to call on Americans to “stay true to our cause” and praised American heroes including the Armed Forces and civil rights leaders.
“Our nation is stronger today than it ever was before. It is its strongest now,” 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.”
“For over 65 years, no enemy Air Force has managed to kill a single American soldier. Because the skies belong to the United States of America,” he added.
He went on to pay tribute to the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and hailed Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, African-Americans who campaigned to abolish slavery over 100 years ago, as great Americans.
The visuals — flyovers by every branch of the military, a display of tanks and other military hardware, the president rallying Americans before the Lincoln Memorial — drew complaints from critics that Trump was politicizing the holiday while flexing U.S. military might to an uncomfortable degree. The tenor of the address, however, still marked a contrast with the predictions made by 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who said that Trump would focus on his presidency rather than American ideals. Instead, he strictly stuck to history as he cited numerous tales of valor to weave a story of the American spirit.
“I wonder what Donald Trump will say this evening when he speaks to the nation at an event designed more to stroke his ego than celebrate American ideals,” former Vice President Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic primary front-runner, said during an event in Iowa.