Remarks at a National African American History Month Reception
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. I really appreciate your being here. And it's an honor for the First Lady and I—and a true honor—to have everybody, all of you, many of my friends in the White House. Our great Vice President is right here. So thank you, Mike. And so many of our wonderful Cabinet. It's really a terrific day, and it's so much fun—so much fun—to have you here to celebrate a very important element of our culture and our life: African American History Month. Right?
We're very glad to be joined by our outstanding Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams. Jerome, thank you very much. I also want to recognize our great Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson. Where's Ben? Great guy. Great friend. And thank you to all members of our Cabinet and all of you who are here, and some of you came from far because this was very important for you to be with us today. And thank you very much.
And to the Hope Christian Church Choir—I heard that sound outside. [Laughter] I said, "That is a beautiful sound I'm hearing." And Alveda King is my friend, and you were saying—I saw you just really moving to the music, Alveda. So thank you very much. [Laughter] Special, special person. And really, right from the beginning. So thank you very much for everything, Alveda. I was privileged to sign the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Act just a few weeks ago with Alveda by my side. And I was—such an honor.
I also want to thank you and Naomi Earp, who is with us, for serving on the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission. Thank you very much. Naomi, thank you very much. As we mark 200 years since the birth of a truly great American icon—200 years—that's something.
As we come together to celebrate the extraordinary contributions of African Americans to our Nation, our thoughts turn to the heroes of the civil rights movement, whose courage and sacrifice have really, totally inspired us all. Through their brave and, really, incredible journey—perseverance, they've gone through tremendous perseverance—they've lifted up the conscience of our Nation and made America more just, more equal, and more free.
From the pews to the picket lines, African American civil rights champions have brought out the best in America, calling us to live up to our founding creed and to the truth that we are all made equal by God. True.
This year we honor a special theme: "African Americans in Times of War." African Americans have fought courageously in every war since the Revolution. Long before our Nation righted the wrongs of slavery and segregation, African Americans gave their hearts, their sweat, their blood, and their very lives to defend the United States, its flag, and its highest ideals. Thank you.
The very proud history of African Americans serving our country in uniform began all the way back at our Nation's founding. They joined units like 1st Rhode Island Regiment, the first all-Black unit of American warriors. Many were slaves, and in exchange for their service, they were promised their birthright of freedom.
These soldiers bravely repelled repeated assaults by enemy forces in the Battle of Rhode Island. Later, they fought at Yorktown, where the British ultimately surrendered, and America's independence was won. And they would not have surrendered so easily and so quickly without you, that I can tell you.
Decades later, African Americans volunteered to fight to preserve our union in the Civil War. Among them was a soldier named William Carney, who was born a slave in Virginia, and later enlisted in the Union Army. During the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, Sergeant Carney saw the color guard of his unit fall, and he was mortally wounded. Immediately, he threw down his rifle, raced to grab the flag, and carried it forward, planting it on the walls of the fort. Through a hail of gunfire and enduring multiple wounds, he continued to guard that great American flag throughout the entire battle. He later remarked to his comrades that the "old flag never touched the ground." That's a big deal. Sergeant Carney's extraordinary valor made him the first African American to be awarded the congressional Medal of Honor—highest award.
Extraordinary patriotism and devotion has distinguished African Americans through every generation. It has inspired acts of heroism and sacrifice that have engraved these heroes' names into American history. Names like that of Charles Nesby, who join us here today. Charles—just what I thought, Charles. Thank you, Charles. Incredible job, incredible guy.
Charles followed in the footsteps of his father—a famed Tuskegee Airman—and distinguished himself as a naval aviator and graduate of the famed TOPGUN. That's a lot of courage, right? Thank you.
Charles went on to command an air wing and served as the director of the VA's Center for Minority Affairs with great distinction. To Charles and all of those here today who have served, you have earned the everlasting gratitude of our Nation. Charles and everybody, thank you all. Thank you. Great courage.
You defend, for all Americans, the same beautiful dream that inspired Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and countless others. It is the dream of a nation where every citizen, regardless of color, religion, or background, can grow up to succeed and to thrive. A nation where every family is safe, where every community can prosper, and where all Americans can stand tall, and proud, and free.
I know this vision of freedom, equality, and dignity lives in the heart of every American patriot. And just like so many African Americans throughout our history who have struggled and sacrificed for freedom, we must do our part to make that vision real for every single American. As long as we have faith in our citizens, confidence in our values, and trust in our God, we will not fail. We will protect the birthright of freedom for all Americans.
I want to tell you, we've made such incredible progress over the last year. It was just announced, and perhaps you heard me say it: We had the lowest African American unemployment rate in the history of our country. That's—Charles, that's good. Alveda—that's in honor of you, Alveda. Lowest in the history of our country. So we are very, very proud of that.
I want to thank you, again, all, for being here. God bless you, and God bless America. God bless America. Thank you very much.
I now would like to invite our really terrific, young—he's very young—I won't ask you how old, but you are a young guy—[laughter]—Surgeon General to the podium. Thank you very much. Thank you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 5:02 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Alveda C. King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Naomi C. Earp, nominee for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Department of Agriculture. A portion of these remarks could not be verified because the audio was incomplete.
Donald J. Trump, Remarks at a National African American History Month Reception Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/332187