President Donald Trump celebrated the story of America as “the greatest political journey in human history” in a Fourth of July commemoration before a soggy but cheering crowd of spectators, many of them invited, on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial. Supporters welcomed his tribute to the U.S. military while protesters assailed him for putting himself center stage on a holiday devoted to unity. As rain fell on him, Trump called on Americans to “stay true to our cause” during a program that adhered to patriotic themes and hailed an eclectic mix of history’s heroes, from the armed forces, space, civil rights and other endeavors of American life. 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. A late afternoon downpour drenched the capital’s Independence Day crowds and Trump’s speech unfolded in occasional rain. The warplanes and presidential aircraft he had summoned conducted their flyovers as planned, capped by the Navy Blue Angels aerobatics team. By adding his own, one-hour “Salute to America” production to capital festivities that typically draw hundreds of thousands anyway, Trump became the first president in nearly seven decades to address a crowd at the National Mall on the Fourth of July. Protesters objecting to what they saw as his co-opting of the holiday inflated a roly-poly balloon
Visitors should arrive early, take public transportation and expect large crowds. The Federal Aviation Administration will also suspend operations at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport from 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. EDT for the July 4th flyovers. Airport operations will also be impacted from 9 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. by the fireworks demonstration.