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Independence Day

'What a great country': Donald Trump praises US military and salutes America in 4 July speech

The US President avoided politics during his speech in Washington DC yesterday.

Fourth Of July Celebration - Washington President Donald Trump participates during the Fourth of July Celebration 'Salute to America' event Pool / ABACA/PA Images Pool / ABACA/PA Images / ABACA/PA Images

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump praised the US military and historical American heroes as he avoided politics during a rousing 4 July speech in Washington yesterday.

Combat aircraft, including the rarely-seen B2 stealth bomber, flew overhead as Trump scrolled through events of US history, from groundbreaking inventions to battlefield victories.

And he also promised that the United States would soon send astronauts to the moon again, and go beyond that achievement to “plant the American flag on Mars”.

“What a great country,” Trump exclaimed in an address saturated with patriotism, after critics accused him of hijacking the annual celebration.

“For Americans, nothing is impossible,” he said.

Trump drew cheers of “USA! USA!” from a rain-soaked audience of tens of thousands on the National Mall in Washington.

“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.”

Fourth Of July Celebration - Washington Navy Blue Angel fighter jets fly past the Washington Monument during yesterday's celebrations Pool / ABACA/PA Images Pool / ABACA/PA Images / ABACA/PA Images

Trump spoke in front of a massive statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln, where civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.

He used the traditionally politics-free holiday to deliver shoutouts to each arm of the military, as well as singling out first-responders and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies that have been criticised for their treatment of migrants.

UPI 20190704 A small inflatable Baby Trump seen in a cage on the National Mall in Washington, D.C yesterday UPI / PA Images UPI / PA Images / PA Images

But he disappointed critics who had warned that Trump, the first president in decades to make a keynote speech on the holiday, was hijacking the celebration to bolster his own political standing and attack Democratic rivals.

Instead, in a trickling rain, he uncharacteristically avoided talking about himself and his political detractors.

He repeatedly ascribed a singular greatness to the country, declaring it “the most exceptional nation in the history of the world”.

Show of militarism

“Today, we come together as one nation with this very special Salute to America. We celebrate our history, our people, and the heroes who proudly defend our flag – the brave men and women of the United States military!” he said.

“Our nation is stronger today than it ever was before. It is its strongest now,” he said.

National Mall on July 4th A military performance at the National Mall in Washington yesterday SIPA USA / PA Images SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

Salute to America' July 4th Event in Washington Fireworks explode as crowds gather for President Trump's ''Salute to AmerIca'' at the Lincoln Memorial. Carol Guzy / ZUMA Wire/PA Images Carol Guzy / ZUMA Wire/PA Images / ZUMA Wire/PA Images

Trump originally wanted a grand military parade for the holiday, inspired by France’s rollout of its armed forces on its own national day.

Instead, he got a more scaled-back version, with some US armoured vehicles parked for display and a flyover by the president’s own Air Force One jet, the B2 bomber, attack helicopters, other warplanes, and the Navy’s Blue Angels aerobatics team.

It was nevertheless a show of martial force that has been absent from the US capital for decades, and Trump’s foes criticised it ahead of time as a show of militarism.

“What, I wonder, will Donald Trump say this evening when he speaks to the nation at an event designed more to stroke his ego than celebrate American ideals?” Democratic White House contender Joe Biden said earlier on Thursday.

Trump himself revelled in the strong crowd, having spent his entire presidency defending himself over the poor turnout for his January 2017 inauguration.

“A great crowd of tremendous Patriots this evening, all the way back to the Washington Monument!” he tweeted, along with a photograph of the audience.

With reporting from - © AFP 2019.

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