Remarks at a "Celebrate Freedom" Rally
The President. Thank you very much. Boy, this is some group. Some group. Nice to win, isn't it? Isn't it nice to win? Robert, thank you very much for that incredible introduction, and thank you to everyone from First Baptist Dallas. Thank you. Pastor, you and Amy have stood with us since the very, very beginning, and I will always stand with you. I've told you that, and I mean that. I will always be with you. I appreciate it. Thank you.
And I'm honored to join you at the first-ever Fourth of July "Freedom" rally taking place here at the Kennedy Center as we pay tribute to those who have proudly served our Nation in uniform. Thank you very much.
Tonight we have been inspired by music that fills our hearts, stirs our souls, and reminds us all of who we are: one Nation under God.
To First Baptist music director, Doran Bugg, and to every musician and member of the choir who has performed with such incredible grace and skill—and I heard them backstage; I said, let me out there—that is the most beautiful music. [Laughter] Beautiful. I just want to say that your music honors our heroes more eloquently than words could ever do. And I just want to thank you. That's real talent standing behind me. Thank you, folks. Thank you very much.
And let me say to the hundreds of veterans with us tonight, that for my very first Independence Day celebration as President, there is no place I'd rather be than with you, I'll tell you that. And I promise you—and you see it happening day by day. Just the other day, we signed Veterans Accountability. They've been trying to do it for 40 years. For 40 years, they've been trying. You couldn't fire somebody if they were horrible, doing a terrible job for the veterans: robbing, stealing, hurting people. You couldn't do anything. It's called the Veterans Accountability Act, and now you can say, "You're fired." Thank you. And I promise you that we will always take care of our great veterans, always. Right, Louie? You'd better believe it. And Paula is up there. Paula White has been so helpful.
Audience members. We love you!
The President. Thank you. I love you too actually. [Laughter]
You've shed your blood, you've poured your love, and you've bared your soul in defense of our country, our people, and our great American flag. Your loyalty to our Nation is measured not merely in words, but in deeds. You raced through gunfire, stared down enemy forces, and ran past the gates of hell to fight and to win for America. And you won for America. And we're going to take care of it. [Applause] Thank you. Thank you.
The story of America's men and women in uniform is the story of freedom and overcoming oppression, the strong protecting the weak, and the good defeating evil. There's a lot of evil out there, I want to tell you. There's a lot of evil. I was left a mess, the fact is. But we're cleaning it up. You watch. Cleaning it up. [Applause] Cleaning it up.
We are awed by your service and your sacrifice. And so to the veterans here tonight—of which there are many—will you please stand right now? Please stand. Thank you. On behalf of our very grateful Nation, thank you very much. Thank you very much. We will always, always remember what you did for us. Tonight we celebrate veterans. We also reflect on everything we cherish as Americans: We love our country, we love our families, we love our freedom, and we love our God. Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago, America always affirmed that liberty comes from our Creator. Our rights are given to us by God, and no earthly force can ever take those rights away.
That is why my administration is transferring power out of Washington and returning that power back to where it belongs: to the people. To the people. The fake media is trying to silence us—[laughter]—but we will not let them, because the people know the truth. The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House, but I'm President, and they're not. We won, and they lost. The fact is, the press has destroyed themselves, because they went too far. Instead of being subtle and smart, they used the hatchet, and the people saw it right from the beginning. The dishonest media will never keep us from accomplishing our objectives on behalf of our great American people. It will never happen.
Their agenda is not your agenda. You've been saying it. I will never stop fighting for you. I am delivering on trade, on the economy, on the Supreme Court, on the Second Amendment, on our military, for our veterans, and on our borders, where we are doing record, record stoppage. Thank you. And we are supporting our incredible police and law enforcement. We will save American lives, protect American sovereignty, and we will ensure the forgotten men and women of our country are never forgotten again.
For too long, politicians have tried—oh, have they tried—to centralize authority among the hands of a small few in our Nation's Capital. I see them all the time. Bureaucrats think they can run over your lives, overrule your values, meddle in your faith, and tell you how to live, what to say, and where to pray. But we know that parents, not bureaucrats, know best how to raise their children and create a thriving society. And we know that families and churches, not government officials, know best how to create a strong and loving community.
And above all else, we know this: In America, we don't worship government, we worship God.
Audience members. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
The President. Our religious liberty is enshrined in the very First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. The American Founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin reminded his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention to begin by bowing their heads in prayer. I remind you that we're going to start saying "Merry Christmas" again. [Laughter] Right? [Applause] True, true. Inscribed on our currency are the words: "In God We Trust." But not only has God bestowed on us the gift of freedom, He's also given us the gift of heroes willing to give their lives to defend that freedom. You just stood.
In every struggle against evil throughout our history, as America's servicemembers have huddled around campfires and sought refuge in foxholes, they have called on their Creator for support. In World War II, when General George Patton—and that was a real general—[laughter]—we've got some Pattons today too. I found them. "Mad Dog" Mattis, right? And he doesn't like doing a lot of talking, but I want to tell you, ISIS, it's a whole different ballgame, folks. [Laughter] It's—they're going fast. [Laughter]
But when Patton ran into a problem that he couldn't solve, he knew what to do: He prayed. Frustrated by rains that were stalling the advance of his Third Army across Europe in early December 1944—horrible weather—Patton asked an Army chaplain to come up with a "good prayer for the weather." Patton then had a quarter of a million copies of that prayer printed and distributed to the soldiers of the Third Army just before the Battle of the Bulge. That was a big one. Did very well there. [Laughter]
Five hundred thousand American soldiers fought that pivotal battle of the Second World War. One of those soldiers is here with us tonight. His name is Harry F. Miller. Where's Harry? Where's Harry? Harry. Stand up, Harry. [Applause] Thank you, Harry.
Like many of the heroes of his generation, Harry wasn't exactly straightforward about his age when he enlisted in the Army Reserves. Shame on you, Harry. [Laughter] He was just 15, but he told them he was old enough to join. Then, he immediately asked for a transfer to Active Duty.
Six months after he enlisted, Private Miller was on his way to Europe to fight for our country. [Applause] Great. A couple months after that, he was in the freezing cold. How cold was it, Harry? Cold. He said, "Really cold." [Laughter] And driving rains of Belgium with the 740th Tank Battalion attached to the 82d Airborne.
As the Battle of the Bulge began, Harry got his orders to go find tanks at a weapons storage facility. When he arrived, he says, he and his friends found nothing but tanks. They were all over the place, right? Nothing but tanks. But they didn't let the tanks stop them. Out of what spare parts they could find, and through sheer grit and resolve, they somehow managed to repair three of those tanks and to get them all set for action and ready to fight. And before long, those three tanks were nose to nose with the lead elements of a German SS Panzer division. And that was tough stuff. In a short time, those tanks had knocked out the first three tanks of the enemy, and the entire German division retreated. They left. Good. That's good, Harry. [Applause] That's good, Harry.
Audience members. Harry! Harry! Harry!
The President. Stand up! Harry fought through the battle and the rest of the war, and he went on to serve in our Armed Forces for 22 years, retiring as a Senior Master Sergeant. A lot of guts. Tomorrow Harry will be 89. Tomorrow, 89. So on behalf of this very large group in this beautiful building, Senior Master Sergeant Miller, happy birthday. Thank you for your lifetime of service. And thank you for helping out. Thank you very much, Harry.
To every veteran with us tonight, from every branch of the military—Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard—I want you to know that we will always keep our promises to those who have kept us free. Since my very first day in office, we've taken one action after another to make sure that our veterans get the care they so richly deserve. We've published wait times—those wait times were bad, weren't they? But, boy, are they getting better and fast. And we've published them at every VA facility; delivered same-day mental health services at every VA Medical Center; nearly doubled the number of veterans given approvals to see the doctor of their choice; and as I said, just signed brandnew legislation—went through the House, went through the Senate. And I signed it so fast—we didn't want to take any chances, right, Harry?—to ensure every VA worker is held accountable for the quality of care they provide to our veterans.
Tonight we are deeply honored to be joined by a number of wounded warriors from Walter Reed. I was over there recently. These are incredible people: the enthusiasm and the spirit. And some of them were hurt really badly. They've got so much spirit, and they love this country so much. These American heroes risked everything so that you and I can live in freedom. They gave all they had—everything—for their comrades, their country, and for victory. They like winning. We like winning again, don't we? You know, in the old days, we used to win. We, sort of, just keep fighting and fighting and fighting and fighting. We're going to win again, folks. We applaud their strength, their courage, and we really support that incredible win that they have—the will. The will is so strong. And that's what they want to do, is they want to win, and they want to win for you. So thank you all very much for being here. That was great.
One such hero is Captain Luis Avila. Where is he? Luis. Luis. Where are you, Luis? We love you, Luis. [Applause] Luis, wow. Luis is here tonight, along with his wife Claudia. Thank you, Claudia. Thank you, darling. Thank you. Thank you. Luis served in the Army for 16 years. He held many different positions on five combat tours. And he was always a leader, and everybody always said—I did some checking on you, Luis—[laughter]—that you did a great job no matter where you were, no matter where you went. On his fifth deployment, Luis bravely led his company on a successful mission to recover vital intelligence. During this critical mission, his vehicle was struck by explosives. Luis was gravely wounded and lost his leg. He received a Purple Heart for his service and sacrifice.
To Luis and Claudia, we will never forget the courageous sacrifice that you made for all of us in this room tonight and for everyone in our country. Thank you. Thank you, Luis. I want you all and all of our incredible wounded warriors to know: You have an entire nation of more than 300 million people behind you. And our Nation is getting strong again. Do you notice? Getting strong again. Our hearts and our prayers are joined with yours. Your legacy, like our gratitude, will live forever. And I want to thank you. Thank you very much. And, Claudia, thank you very much. Thank you.
I also want to speak to all of the people—see, you thought I forgot—in our faith community who are here with us tonight, veterans and nonveterans alike. You're never going to be forgotten. You'll never be forgotten. My administration will always support and defend your religious liberty.
We don't want to see God forced out of the public square, driven out of our schools, or pushed out of our civic life. We want to see prayers before football games if they want to give prayers. Right? [Applause] Right? We want all children to have the opportunity to know the blessings of God.
We will not allow the Government to censor sermons, to restrict the free speech of our pastors and our preachers and the people that we most respect, like Robert. That is why, just as I promised Pastor Jeffress and other faith leaders, I just signed an Executive order following—and this is something that makes me very happy and very proud—following through on my campaign pledge to stop the Johnson Amendment from interfering with your First Amendment rights. As long as I am President, no one is going to stop you from practicing your faith or from preaching what is in your heart. We want to hear Him.
One of the most grave and dire threats to religious freedom in the world today is the threat of terrorism, and specifically, it just seems it's called radical Islamic terrorism. And we cannot allow terrorism and extremism to spread in our country or to find sanctuary on our shores or in our cities. We want to make sure that anyone who seeks to join our country shares our values and has the capacity to love our people. Thank you.
Together, we will protect our families, our nations, and our borders. And yes, by the way, for those that are curious, we will build the wall, okay? [Laughter] Because we understand that a country is more than just its geography. A nation is the sum of its citizens: their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations. America is a land rich with history, traditions and values. And as we have seen tonight—what a group this is tonight—America is also a land rich with heroes.
And though we have many stories, we all share one home and one glorious destiny, a destiny that's getting better and better every single day. And whether we are Black or Brown or White—and you've heard me say this before—we all bleed the same red blood. We all salute the same great American flag. And we are all made by the same Almighty God.
We face many challenges. There are many hills and mountains to climb. But with the strength and courage of the patriots assembled in this room tonight, we will scare—I mean, and you see, and you see it all the time, and we're doing it all the time, because we're scaling those summits—and we will get the job done. We will all prove worthy of this very important moment in history, and we will prove worthy of the sacrifice that our brave veterans have made.
As long as we have pride in our beliefs, courage in our convictions, and faith in our God, we will not fail. As long as our country remains true to its values, loyal to its heroes, and devoted to its Creator, then our best days are yet to come, because we will make America great again.
To my friend, Pastor Jeffress, and to Paula and to Louie and to Harry and to Luis and to everybody in this room and everybody in this country: Thank you for your great support. I appreciate it. I will not let you down. To all of our incredible veterans, to the people in the military, and to evangelical Christians who came out in record, record, record numbers: Thank you.
Have a wonderful Independence Day. God bless you. God bless our Nation's veterans. God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. Thank you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 8:52 p.m. at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In his remarks, he referred to Robert Jeffress, senior pastor, First Baptist Church Dallas of Dallas, TX, which cosponsored the event with Salem Media Group, Inc., and his wife Amy. He also referred to Rep. Louis B. Gohmert, Jr.; Paula White-Cain, senior pastor, New Destiny Christian Center of Apopka, FL; Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis; Washington, DC, resident Harry F. Miller; and Chevy Chase, MD, resident Luis Avila. He also referred to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist organization. The transcript, prepared for immediate release by the Office of the Press Secretary, was received by the Office of the Federal Register on July 27.
Donald J. Trump, Remarks at a "Celebrate Freedom" Rally Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/330932