Hello, America. Hello. The First Lady and I wish each and every one of you a Happy Independence Day on this truly historic Fourth of July! (Applause.)
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. (Applause.)
We are pleased to have with us Vice President Mike Pence and his wonderful wife Karen. (Applause.) We are also joined by many hardworking members of Congress; Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and many other members of my Cabinet; and also the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
Lieutenant General Daniel Hokanson of the National Guard and distinguished leaders representing each branch of the United States Armed Forces: the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, and, very soon, the Space Force. (Applause.)
As we gather this evening in the joy of freedom, we remember that we all share a truly extraordinary heritage. Together, we are part of one of the greatest stories ever told: the story of America. It is the epic tale of a great nation whose people have risked everything for what they know is right and what they know is true. It is the chronicle of brave citizens who never give up on the dream of a better and brighter future. And it is the saga of thirteen separate colonies that united to form the most just and virtuous republic ever conceived. (Applause.)
On this day, 243 years ago, our Founding Fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to declare independence and defend our God-given rights. (Applause.)
Thomas Jefferson wrote the words that forever changed the course of humanity: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Applause.)
With a single sheet of parchment and 56 signatures, America began the greatest political journey in human history. But on that day, the patriots who would determine the ultimate success of the struggle were a hundred miles away in New York. There, the Continental Army prepared to make its stand, commanded by the beloved General George Washington. (Applause.)
As the delegates debated the Declaration in Philadelphia, Washington’s army watched from Manhattan as a massive British invading fleet loomed dangerously across New York harbor. The British had come to crush the revolution in its infancy. Washington’s message to his troops laid bare the stakes. He wrote: “The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army…We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.” (Applause.)
Days later, General Washington ordered the Declaration read aloud to the troops. The assembled soldiers just joined an excited crowd running down Broadway. They toppled a statue of King George and melted it into bullets for battle. The faraway King would soon learn a timeless lesson about the people of this majestic land: Americans love our freedom and no one will ever take it away from us. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE PRESIDENT: That same American spirit that emboldened our founders has kept us strong throughout our history. To this day, that spirit runs through the veins of every American patriot. It lives on in each and every one of you here today. It is the spirit of daring and defiance, excellence and adventure, courage and confidence, loyalty and love that built this country into the most exceptional nation in the history of the world, and our nation is stronger today than it ever was before. (Applause.) It is its strongest now. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE PRESIDENT: That same righteous American spirit forged our glorious Constitution.
That rugged American character led the legendary explorers, Lewis and Clark, on their perilous expedition across an untamed continent. It drove others to journey West and stake out their claim on the wild frontier.
Devotion to our founding ideals led American patriots to abolish the evil of slavery, secure civil rights, and expand the blessings of liberty to all Americans. (Applause.)
This is the noble purpose that inspired Abraham Lincoln to rededicate our nation to a new birth of freedom, and to resolve that we will always have a government of, by, and for the people. (Applause.)
Our quest for greatness unleashed a culture of discovery that led Thomas Edison to imagine his lightbulb, Alexander Graham Bell to create the telephone, the Wright Brothers to look to the sky and see the next great frontier. For Americans, nothing is impossible. (Applause.)
Exactly 50 years ago this month, the world watched in awe as Apollo 11 astronauts launched into space with a wake of fire and nerves of steel, and planted our great American flag on the face of the moon. Half a century later, we are thrilled to have here tonight the famed NASA Flight Director who led Mission Control during that historic endeavor: the renowned Gene Kranz. (Applause.)
Gene, I want you to know that we are going to be back on the moon very soon. And someday soon, we will plant the American flag on Mars. (Applause.) It’s happening, Gene. It’s happening.
Our nation’s creativity and genius lit up the lights of Broadway and the soundstages of Hollywood. It filled the concert halls and airwaves around the world with the sound of jazz, opera, country, rock and roll, and rhythm and blues. It gave birth to the musical, the motion picture, the Western, the World Series, the Super Bowl, the skyscraper, the suspension bridge, the assembly line, and the mighty American automobile. (Applause.)
It led our citizens to push the bounds of medicine and science to save the lives of millions.
Here with us this evening is Dr. Emmanuel [Emil] Freireich. When Emmanuel [Emil] began his work, 99 percent of children with leukemia died. Thanks largely to Dr. Freireich’s breakthrough treatments, currently 90 percent of those with the most common childhood leukemias survive. Doctor, you are a great American hero. Thank you. (Applause.)
Americans always take care of each other. That love and unity held together the first pilgrims, it forged communities on the Great Plains, it inspired Clara Barton to found the Red Cross, and it keeps our nation thriving today.
Here tonight from the Florida panhandle is Tina Belcher. Her selfless generosity over 3 decades has made her known to all as “Mrs. Angel.” Every time a hurricane strikes, Mrs. Angel turns her tiny kitchen into a disaster relief center. On a single day after Hurricane Michael, she gave 476 people a warm meal. Mrs. Angel, your boundless heart inspires us all. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much.
From our earliest days, Americans of faith have uplifted our nation. This evening, we are joined by Sister Deirdre Byrne. Sister Byrne is a retired Army surgeon who served for nearly 30 years. On September 11th, 2001, the sister raced to Ground Zero. Through smoke and debris, she administered first aid and comfort to all. Today, Sister Byrne runs a medical clinic serving the poor in our nation’s capital. Sister, thank you for your lifetime of service. Thank you. (Applause.)
Our nation has always honored the heroes who serve our communities: the firefighters, first responders, police, sheriffs, ICE, Border Patrol, and all of the brave men and women of law enforcement. (Applause.)
On this July 4th, we pay special tribute to the military service members who laid down their lives for our nation. We are deeply moved to be in the presence this evening of Gold Star families whose loved ones made the supreme sacrifice. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much.
Throughout our history, our country has been made ever greater by citizens who risked it all for equality and justice. 100 years ago this summer, the women’s suffrage movement led Congress to pass the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. (Applause.)
In 1960, a thirst for justice led African American students to sit down at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Applause.) It was one of the very first civil rights sit-ins and it started a movement all across our nation.
Clarence Henderson was 18-years-old when he took his place in history. Almost six decades later, he is here tonight in a seat of honor. Clarence, thank you for making this country a much better place for all Americans. (Applause.)
In 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., stood here on these very steps and called on our nation to live out the “true meaning of its creed,” and “let freedom ring” for every citizen all across our land.
America’s fearless resolve has inspired heroes who defined our national character — from George Washington, John Adams, and Betsy Ross, to Douglass — you know, Fredrick Douglass — (applause) — the great Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, Jackie Robinson, and, of course, John Glenn. (Applause.)
It has willed our warriors up mountains and across minefields. It has liberated continents, split the atom, and brought tyrants and empires to their knees.
Here with us this evening is Earl Morse. After retiring from the Air Force, Earl worked at a VA hospital in Ohio. Earl found that many World War Two veterans could not afford to visit their memorial on the National Mall. So Earl began the very first “Honor Flights,” that have now brought over 200,000 World War Two heroes to visit America’s monument. Earl, thank you. We salute you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you, Earl. Thank you.
Our warriors form a hallowed roll call of American patriots, running all the way back to the first souls who fought and won American independence. Today, just as it did 243 years ago, the future of American freedom rests on the shoulders of men and women willing to defend it. We are proudly joined tonight by heroes from each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, including three recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.
They, and thousands before us, served with immense distinction, and they loved every minute of that service. To young Americans across our country, now is your chance to join our military and make a truly great statement in life. And you should do it. (Applause.)
We will now begin our celebration of the United States Armed Forces, honoring each branch’s unique culture, rich history, service song, and distinct legacy. I invite Acting Secretary — please — Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense; and Chairman Dunford, Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — please join me. (Applause.)
In August of 1790, by request of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, Congress established a fleet of ten swift vessels to defend our shores.
These Revenue Cutters would fight pirates, stop smugglers, and safeguard our borders. They are the ancestors of our faithful Coast Guard. (Applause.)
When our ships were seized and sailors kidnapped by foreign powers in 1812, it was a Revenue Cutter — the swift schooner Thomas Jefferson — that swept in to capture the first British vessel of the war.
In 1897, when 265 whalers were trapped in ice — and the ice fields of Alaska were closing up — courageous officers trekked fifteen hundred miles through the frozen frontier to rescue those starving men from a certain death.
In 1942, the Coast Guard manned landing craft for invasions in the Pacific. When the enemy attacked U.S. Marines from the shores of Guadalcanal, Coast Guard Signalman First Class Douglas Munro used his own boat to shield his comrades from pounding gunfire. Munro gave his life; hundreds of Marines were saved. As he lay dying on the deck, his final question embodied devotion that sails with every Coast Guardsman: “Did they get off?” (Applause.)
On D-Day, the Coast Guard’s famous Matchbox Fleet served valiantly through every hour of the greatest amphibious invasion in the history of our country. One coxswain said “the water boiled with bullets like a mud puddle in a hailstorm,” but still the Coast Guard braved death to put our boys on Utah and Omaha beaches.
Every Coast Guardsman is trusted to put service before all. Coasties plunge from helicopters, and barrel through pouring rain and crashing waves to save American lives. They secure our borders from drug runners and terrorists. In rough seas, at high speeds, their sharpshooters take out smugglers’ engines with a single shot. They never miss.
When the red racing stripes of a Coast Guard vessel break the horizon, when their chopper blades pierce the sky, those in distress know that the help is on their way, and our enemies know their time has come. (Applause.)
These guardians of our waters stand, Semper Paratus. (Applause.) They are always ready. They are the United States Coast Guard.
Representing the Coast Guard today, you will soon see an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter based at Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, along with an HH-65 Dolphin from Air Station Atlantic City, and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry from Air Station Miami.
(“Semper Paratus” is played with a flyover.)
Thank you. Thank you to the Coast Guard.
On a cold December morning in 1903, a miracle occurred over the dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, when two bicycle makers from Ohio defied gravity with a 12 horsepower engine, wings made of cotton, and just a few dollars in their pockets. Just six years later, America was training its first pilots to take these magnificent machines up and over the field of battle.
In World War One, our flyboys rushed the skies of Europe, and aces like Eddie Rickenbacker filled hearts and headlines with tales of daring duels in the clouds.
General Billy Mitchell saw the promise of this technology, and risked court martial in his quest for an independent air force. He was proven right when empires across the oceans tried to carve up the world for themselves, and America stood in the way. We wouldn’t let it happen. (Applause.)
After Pearl Harbor, Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle and his raiders flew B-25 bombers off a carrier deck in the deep Pacific in a daring feat of American resolve.
And, as President Roosevelt said, the Nazis built a fortress around Europe, “but [they] forgot to put a roof on it.” (Applause.)
So we crushed them all from the air. One hundred and seventy-seven Liberator Bombers flew dangerously low, through broad daylight without fighter protection, to cripple the Nazi war machine at Ploiești. More than 300 airmen gave their lives to destroy the enemy oil refineries. And five pilots were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their actions in that single raid. (Applause.)
It was airman Chuck Yeager who first broke the sound barrier. It was airmen like Gus Grissom and Buzz Aldrin, who traded their Sabre jets for rockets to the stars. And it is our incredible airmen today who wield the most powerful weapons systems on the planet Earth.
For over 65 years, no enemy air force has managed to kill a single American soldier because the skies belong to the United States of America. (Applause.)
No enemy has attacked our people without being met by a roar of thunder, and the awesome might of those who bid farewell to Earth, and soar into the wild blue yonder. They are the United States Air Force.
Representing the Air Force you will soon see beautiful, brand new F-22 Raptors from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia — (applause) — and one magnificent B-2 Stealth Bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. (Applause.)
(“The U.S. Air Force” is played with a flyover.)
What a great country.
In October of 1775, the Continental Congress ordered the construction of two swift-sailing vessels, each carrying 10 cannons and 80 men, to sail eastward.
Our young fleet tested their sea legs against the most powerful navy the world had ever seen.
John Paul Jones, America’s first great naval hero, said: “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.” He got his wish many times when his ship was shot into pieces off the coast of England by a British vessel and her four dozen guns. When demanded to surrender, Jones very famously declared “I have not yet begun to fight!” (Applause.) When our Navy begins fighting, they finish the job.
The War of 1812: Captain James Lawrence fell with his brothers on USS Chesapeake. His dying command gained immortality, “Don’t give up the ship.” (Applause.)
In the Battle of Mobile Bay, Admiral David Farragut lashed himself to the rigging of his flagship to see beyond the cannon smoke, crying, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” (Applause.)
In World War Two, it was aviators launched from the carrier Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown who filled the skies of Midway and turned the tide of the Pacific War. Nobody could beat us. Nobody could come close.
On D-Day, Seabee engineers came ashore to destroy blockades and barriers, making way for the invasion. Many lost their lives, but they took the German defenses with them, and our men crushed upon the beaches like a mighty storm.
From the Naval demolition units of World War Two arose a force that became famous in the Mekong Delta. They don’t want to see our force again. The very best of the very best: the Navy SEALs. (Applause.)
It was the SEALs who delivered vengeance on the terrorist who planned the September 11th attack on our homeland. It was the SEALs who stand ready to bring righteous retribution — in mountain, jungle, desert — to those who do us harm.
America’s sailors are not born. They are forged by the sea. Their traditions are rich with the salt and blood of three centuries.
When Old Glory crests the waves of foreign shores, every friend and every foe knows that justice sails those waters. It sails with the United States Navy. (Applause.)
Representing our great Navy today will be two F-18 Super Hornets from Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia, along with two F-35 Lightning’s from Naval Air Station Lemoore in California.
(“”Anchors Aweigh” is played with a flyover.)
In November of 1775, the Continental Congress created two battalions of a new kind of warrior — one who kept and would protect our ships and sailors, and be at home both ashore and in the mast, with musket in hand.
Their versatility was proven in the War of Independence, when 234 Continental Marines conducted their first amphibious raid, capturing the British supply of gunpowder and cannons at Fort Nassau.
Ever since, Marines have fought in every American war. Their legend has grown and grown and grown with each passing year. It was the Marines who won America’s first overseas battle, vanquishing Barbary pirates on the shores of Tripoli.
Their high, stiff collar, which shielded them from the pirates’ sword, earned them the immortal name: Leatherneck. (Applause.)
It was the Marines who, after two long days of battle, marched through the Halls of Montezuma. It was the Marines who took heavy casualties to kick the Kaiser’s troops out of Belleau Wood in World War One, earning the title “Devil Dogs.” (Applause.) And it was the Marines who raised the flag on the black sands of Iwo Jima. (Applause.)
From the Chosin Reservoir to Khe Sanh, from Helmand to Baghdad, Marines have struck fear into the hearts of our enemies and put solace into the hearts of our friends. Marines always lead the way.
After the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, which claimed the lives of 241 great U.S. servicemen, Marine Sergeant Jeffrey Nashton lay in bandages — so badly wounded, barely alive.
When the Commandant of the Marine Corps came to visit his hospital, Sergeant Nashton had to feel the General’s collar; he wanted to feel his four stars. He could not see and he could not speak. He signaled for pen and paper, and with shaking hand he wrote two words: Semper Fi. (Applause.)
That motto, Semper Fidelis — “Always Faithful” — burns in the soul of every Marine, a sacred promise the Corps has kept since the birth of our country. They are the elite masters of air and land and sea, on battlefields across the globe. They are the United States Marines. (Applause.)
Representing the Marine Corps today will be a brand new VH-92, soon to serve as Marine One — (applause) — along with two V-22 Ospreys from the famed HMX-1 helicopter squadron at Quantico, the “Nighthawks.”
(“Marines’ Hymn” is played with a flyover.)
In June of 1775, the Continental Congress created a unified army out of the revolutionary forces encamped around Boston and New York, and named after the great George Washington, Commander-in-Chief.
The Continental Army suffered the bitter winter of Valley Forge, found glory across the waters of the Delaware, and seized victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown.
Our Army manned the air (inaudible), it rammed the ramparts. It took over the airports. It did everything it had to do. And at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, it had nothing but victory. And when dawn came, their Star Spangled Banner waved defiant. (Applause.)
At Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg, our soldiers gave the last full measure of devotion for the true unity of our nation and the freedom of all Americans. (Applause.)
In the trenches of World War One, an Army Sergeant named Alvin York faced an inferno of enemy fire and refused to retreat. He said, “I won’t leave. I won’t stop.” He shot his rifle 18 times, killing 18 of the enemy. When they fixed bayonets and charged, he killed seven more. The entire German machine gun battalion surrendered because of one man, Alvin York.
A generation later, the Army returned to Europe, and embarked upon a great crusade. With knives and rifles in hand, the Rangers scaled the cliffs of Normandy. The 101st Airborne leapt into the danger from above, illuminated only by enemy flares, explosions, and burning aircraft. They threw back the Nazi empire with lightning of their own, from the turrets of Sherman tanks and the barrels of the M1 rifle.
In the darkness of the Battle of the Bulge, with Nazis on every side, one soldier is reported to have said: “They’ve got us surrounded again, the poor bastards.” (Laughter and applause.)
Outnumbered, American warriors fought through the bunkers of Pork Chop Hill and held the line of civilization in Korea.
In the elephant grass of Vietnam, the First Cavalry made its stand amid a forest consumed in flame, with enemies at every single turn.
The Army brought America’s righteous fury down to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and cleared the bloodthirsty killers from their caves.
They liberated Fallujah and Mosul, and helped liberate and obliterate the ISIS caliphate, just recently, in Syria. One hundred percent gone. (Applause.)
Through the centuries, our soldiers have always pointed towards home, proclaiming, “This We’ll Defend.”
They live by the creed of Douglas MacArthur: “In war, there is no substitute for victory.” They are the greatest soldiers on Earth. (Applause.)
(“The Army Goes Rolling Along” is played with a flyover.)
Nearly 250 years ago, a volunteer army of farmers and shopkeepers, blacksmiths, merchants, and militiamen risked life and limb to secure American liberty and self-government.
This evening, we have witnessed the noble might of the warriors who continue that legacy. They guard our birthright with vigilance and fierce devotion to the flag and to our great country.
Now we must go forward as a nation with that same unity of purpose. As long as we stay true to our cause, as long as we remember our great history, as long as we never ever stop fighting for a better future, then there will be nothing that America cannot do. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
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. (Applause.)
The future belongs to the brave, the strong, the proud, and the free. We are one people, chasing one dream, and one magnificent destiny. We all share the same heroes, the same home, the same heart, and we are all made by the same Almighty God. (Applause.)
And from the banks of the Chesapeake to the cliffs of California, from the humming shores of the Great Lakes to the sand dunes of the Carolinas, from the fields of the Heartland to the everglades of Florida, the spirit of American independence will never fade, never fail, but will reign forever and ever and ever. (Applause.)
So once more, to every citizen throughout our land: Have a glorious Independence Day. Have a great Fourth of July.
I want to thank the Army Band, the National Park Service, the Interior Department, the incredible pilots overhead, and those who are making possible the amazing fireworks display later this evening.
Now, as the band plays “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” I invite the First Lady, Vice President and Mrs. Pence, the Service Secretaries and military leaders to join me onstage for one more salute to America by the famous, incredible, talented Blue Angels. (Applause.)
God bless you. God bless the military. And God bless America. Happy Fourth of July.