(UPI) — In his final day as president-elect, Donald Trump kicked off his inauguration Thursday with a visit to Washington, D.C., which began with a time-honored flight, a tribute to American military veterans and a concert on the National Mall.
After enjoying the concert with family at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Thursday evening, which featured several major acts, Trump and wife Melania walked to the top of the steps — with the statue of Lincoln behind them — to cap the event.
“So this journey began 18 months ago. I had something to do with it, but you had much more to do with it,” Trump told thousands of supporters in the crowd. “I’m the messenger. I’m just the messenger.”
“We all got tired of seeing what was happening and we wanted change, but we wanted real change,” he continued. “I look so forward to tomorrow. We are going to see something that is going to be so amazing.
“There has never been a movement like this.”
Trump arrived at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland early Thursday aboard a U.S. Air Force Boeing 757 — not the Trump-branded plane that’s shuttled him across the nation during his campaign.
A first salute from the incoming commander-in-chief of the United States as he deplanes at Joint Base Andrews on Thursday. pic.twitter.com/QkiWNUMqv1
— Micah Grimes (@MicahGrimes) January 19, 2017
After his arrival, Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence visited Arlington National Cemetery and laid a wreath to honor U.S. military veterans. That visit was followed by the trek to the Lincoln Memorial.
The weather on the Mall during Thursday afternoon’s ceremonies was mostly cloudy and temperatures hovered around 50 degrees just before sunset. Forecasters expect rain on Friday.
Thursday’s activities are well-established traditions for incoming U.S. commanders in-chief, and they formally mark the beginning of the inauguration process.
Country stars Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood, rock groups 3 Doors Down and The Piano Guys, DJ RaviDrum and The Frontmen of Country with Tim Rushlow, Larry Stewart and Richie McDonald performed at the event, which was called the “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration.”
“Our phrase, you all know it, half of you are wearing the hat — Make America Great Again — but we are going to make America great for all of our people,” Trump said. “That includes the inner cities, that includes everybody.”
Upon arriving in Washington, Trump visited his new hotel for a luncheon celebrating his forthcoming administration. During the banquet, the leader in-waiting championed his Cabinet nominees, who have been vetted by Senate committees since last week.
“We have by far the highest IQ of any cabinet ever assembled,” Trump said at the luncheon.
“It is going to be a very humbling and moving day for the president-elect, his family and mine,” Pence added at a news conference. “We can’t wait to get to work for the American people.”
An inaugural dinner was scheduled for Thursday evening and will be the final event before the second day of ceremonies Friday, when Trump will be sworn-in at the U.S. Capitol.
“I can only tell you, 18 months ago … a lot of people didn’t give us much of a chance but we understood what was happening,” Trump said. “I promise you that I will work so hard. We’re going to get it turned around.
“I’ll see you tomorrow. … and we are going to make America great again — and I’ll add, greater than ever before.”
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