“Very soon, we will plant the American flag on Mars”
DESPARDES — Surrounded by U.S. weaponry and in front of a rain-soaked crowd of thousands, President Donald Trump celebrated the story of America as “the greatest political journey in human history” in a Fourth of July commemoration.
“With a single sheet of parchment and 56 signatures,” Trump said, “America began the greatest political journey in human history”– the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Taking the stage in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Thursday with first lady Melania Trump at his side the U.S. President called for unity in an untraditional event he organized to honor U.S. troops on the nation’s Independence Day 4th of July.
Supporters welcomed his tribute to the U.S. military while protesters assailed him for putting himself center stage on a holiday devoted to unity.
During his 45-minute speech, Trump told the crowd assembled for “Salute to America” that they all share a “truly extraordinary heritage” and are a part of one of the greatest stories ever told — The story of America.
“It is the epic tale of a great nation whose people have risked everything for what they know is right and what they know is true,” he said. “It is the chronicle of great citizens who never give up on the dream of a better and brighter future and it is the saga of 13 separate colonies that united to form the most just and virtuous republic ever conceived.”
Trump retold of the war that led to the United States gaining its independence from England, and said that now grasped, its freedom will never be taken away.
That spirit to fight for one’s freedom is what made the United States what it is and is in every American, he said.
“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,” he said as the crowd broke into chants of “U.S.A.”
He then listed some of the more memorial achievements by U.S. citizens while detailing the victories and triumphs of the nation’s armed forces.
During his speech that included several flyovers by U.S. aircraft, the president called for unity, saying the nation must go forward with the same “unity of purpose” that the country has exhibited throughout its history.
“As long as we stay true to our course, as long as we remember our great history, as long as we never, ever stop fighting for a better future, then there will be nothing that America cannot do,” he said.
He largely stuck to his script, avoiding diversions into his agenda or re-election campaign. But in one exception, he vowed, “Very soon, we will plant the American flag on Mars,” actually a distant goal not likely to be achieved until late in the 2020s if even then.
It’s been nearly seven decades that a US president has addressed a crowd at the National Mall on the Fourth of July. Not since 1951, when President Harry Truman spoke before a large gathering on the Washington Monument grounds to mark the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, has a commander in chief made an Independence Day speech to a sizable crowd on the Mall.
Protesters objecting to what they saw as his co-opting of the holiday inflated a roly-poly balloon depicting Trump as an angry, diaper-clad baby.
Anti-Trump veterans had planned to hand out T-shirts for the USS John McCain to troll Trump, who has criticized the deceased U.S. senator and captured Naval pilot during World War II.
Pete Buttigieg, one of the Democrats running for president, said, “This business of diverting money and military assets to use them as a kind of prop, to prop up a presidential ego, is not reflecting well on our country.” Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is a Navy Reserve veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2014.
Because of the aircraft flyovers and fireworks in the capital, airspace over Washington, D.C., was closed with nearly 100 scheduled flights affected, according to a CNN review of flight records.
Costs have not been disclosed but The Washington Post reported the National Park Service will redirect at least $2.5 million from park fees earmarked to improve parks around the country to help cover new costs as a result of the event.
Trump tweeted the cost would be “very little compared to what it’s worth.”