Trump celebrates Independence Day with huge military parade
Washington, Jul 5 : Declaring that "nothing is impossible" for Americans, President Donald Trump celebrated the Independence Day with an unprecedented display of the country's military might at a rain-soaked parade but surprised his critics with a speech that was devoid of his trademark political rhetoric, ahead of his 2020 re-election bid.
In one of the least polarising speeches of his presidency, Trump paid tribute to America's armed forces at a July Fourth appearance before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington that was held amid criticism that the Commander-in-Chief was politicising America's Independence Day celebrations.
As the Abrams tanks rumbled, fighter aircraft, including a B-2 bomber and a pair of F-35 warplanes roared overhead and the jumbo jet used as Air Force One performed a rare flyover over the National Mall, Trump said, "For Americans, nothing is impossible."
"Our nation is stronger today than it ever was before," he said and emphasised that the country's future "rests on the shoulders of men and women willing to defend it."
"As long as we stay true to our cause, as long as we remember our great history and as long as we never stop fighting for a better future, then there will be nothing that America cannot do," he asserted in his 'Salute to America' address.
"We will always be the people who defeated a tyrant, crossed a continent, harnessed science, took to the skies, and soared into the heavens, because we will never forget that we are Americans, and the future belongs to us."
Trump, 73, became the first US President in over 70 years to deliver an Independence Day address which the Opposition Democratic leaders criticised for what they alleged politicisation of the country's declaration of independence from Britain on July 4, 1776.
Unlike other countries, the annual celebration of the American Independence Day on July 4 is traditionally not marked by any military parade. Previous presidents have taken a low profile at independence commemorations.
The last time tanks and troops rolled through Washington was in June 1991, when 8,000 soldiers marched in the so-called 'National Victory Celebration' marking the end of the first US invasion of Iraq.
Joined by First Lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, his cabinet colleagues and top military leadership, Trump said it was an occasion to salute the US soldiers and generals.
"Today we come together as one nation. With this very special salute to America. We celebrate our history by people, and the heroes who proudly defend our flag, the brave men and women of the United States military," he said in his 47-minute speech.
Trump said the same American spirit that emboldened the country's founders has kept its people strong throughout its history.
He recalled the upcoming anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. He recognised Gene Kranz, the NASA flight director from that mission, and promised someday soon that the US will "plant the American flag on Mars".
Trump recognised each branch of the armed forces, noting the Space Force would soon be added.
The President punctuated his speech, delivered behind a rain-streaked transparent bulletproof barrier, with carefully choreographed flyovers of some of the military's most sophisticated warplanes, including a B-2 bomber and a pair of F-35 jets.
Opposition Democratic leaders criticised Trump for what they alleged politicisation of the Independence Day ahead of next year's presidential race. Trump has already announced that he would be the Republican Party's candidate while 23 Democrats are vying for the party's nomination.
Local officials in Washington have long resisted Trump's efforts for a military parade, citing among other things the potential damage to city streets from rumbling tanks.
"We have said it before, and we'll say it again: Tanks, but no tanks,” the D.C. City Council tweeted on Monday.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and a nonvoting House member who represents the district, called Trump's event a logistical "nightmare."
She added that the Trump administration has still not repaid the city for the nearly USD 7 million it spent to help fund his inauguration in January 2017.
Two protestors were arrested near the parade site. In addition two secret service agents received minor injuries in a flag-burning incident outside the White House.
Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama hosted more discreet events on the South Lawn of the White House. Pentagon leaders had reservations about putting tanks or other armored vehicles on display, CNN reported, quoting a source with direct knowledge of the situation as saying.
Critics of what Trump said would be the "show of a lifetime" raised concerns about the cost to taxpayers, the appearance of politicising a traditionally non-partisan celebration and worries that the military is being used as a political prop.
"But the president refrained from mentioning anything overtly political during the event," the NBC News commented.