WASHINGTON – The Trump administration announced plans Wednesday for a unique July Fourth celebration – a made-for-TV event starring President Donald J. Trump.
Trump will deliver a speech from the Lincoln Memorial as part of a daylong series of events that includes a military-themed parade near the National Mall and flyovers featuring planes used for Air Force One, officials said.
“There is no more appropriate place to celebrate the anniversary of American independence than among the Nation’s monuments on the National Mall and the memorials to the service men and women who have defended the United States for the past 243 years,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement.
Trump's address at the Lincoln Memorial, to be delivered at a "Salute to America" event at 6:30 p.m. on Independence Day, is designed "to honor America’s armed forces," the Interior Department said.
The president, who pushed for new July Fourth events based on a military parade he saw in France, promoted the new holiday approach during his speech Tuesday announcing his re-election bid. He urged supporters in Orlando, Florida, to bring flags to the event.
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Critics of the idea say it would turn a popular holiday tradition into a political rally. They question how the Trump-inspired events will affect traditional Fourth of July programs such as the annual concert on Capitol Hill featuring various entertainers and the National Symphony orchestra.
"Our founders were ready to give their lives for this country and that's what we celebrate on the Fourth of July," Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson said. "Donald Trump wants to basically cancel the nonpartisan celebration of America and force us to celebrate him, instead."
Skeptics have also warned about security issues.
"The current security and event structure was well developed after 9/11 to keep the event and all of the attendees safe," said Moira Whelan, a homeland security and State Department official during the Barack Obama administration.
Whelan said, "there appears to be little justifiable reason" for major changes, "beyond personal preference" of Trump.
"In short," she said, "this is a waste of time, a waste of money and a dishonor to our country."
The administration listed the traditional "Capitol Fourth Concert" on the west lawn of the Capitol as one of the holiday events. It is now joined by others that include:
- A "National Independence Day parade" to run 10 blocks along Constitution Avenue, which parallels the National Mall. It will feature marching bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military units, giant balloons, equestrian, and drill teams.
- The "Salute to America" at the Lincoln Memorial in which Trump " leads a celebration of America’s military with music, military demonstrations and flyovers," according to the Interior Department.
- The traditional fireworks display, the launch for which has been moved to West Potomac Park and behind the Lincoln Memorial.
Initially, Trump was inspired by a Bastille Day parade he attended in Paris in 2017. He had hoped to hold a military parade in November but the Pentagon and local officials raised concerns about cost, so the idea was scrapped.
The president then began to focus on doing something for July Fourth, an idea he teased with a tweet in early February.
“It could be an exciting day,” Trump told his Cabinet on Feb. 12.
A few weeks later, Trump tweeted: "HOLD THE DATE! We will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4th. It will be called 'A Salute To America' and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!"
Some people are holding their breath, recalling the last time a Fourth of July was tied to a sitting president.
Back in 1970, supporters of Richard Nixon staged an "Honor America Day" in Washington, D.C.
Vietnam War protesters flooded the event. Some staged a marijuana "smoke-in" on the National Mall, while others waded into the reflecting pool opposite the Lincoln Memorial.
Police used tear gas on some of the protesters, but the wind carried the gas into the crowd attending the ceremony.
After Trump's tweet in February, critic William Kristol responded: "The last president to try to hijack July 4th was Richard Nixon, who staged Honor America Day on July 4, 1970. It was widely ridiculed. Nixon later left office in disgrace."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump's Fourth of July bash to include speech at Lincoln Memorial, parade, flyovers