Trump himself didn’t emerge until about an hour into the event. Following an introduction by actor Jon Voight and a string of musical performances — including a rendition of “America the Beautiful” from Sam Moore of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Sam & Dave — Trump and wife Melania finally took the stage. But his followers would have to wait a bit longer to hear from the man himself. Before he took the microphone, the rest of the event’s musical lineup — including Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down, The Piano Guys and “God Bless the U.S.A.” singer Lee Greenwood — hit the stage.
“This journey began 18 months ago,” Trump said to wrap up the event. “I had something to do with it, but you had much more to do with it than I did. 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.”
Trump marveled at the crowd gathered around the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and compared it to his growing crowds across the country during the presidential campaign. “Eighteen months ago … a lot of people didn’t give us much of a chance, but we understood what was happening,” he said. “And that last month of the campaign, when I traveled around to every place you can imagine, state after state, speech after speech, and we had 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 people, there was never an empty seat. … We knew that something special was happening. I can only tell you this: The polls started going up, up, up, but they didn’t want to give us credit, because they forgot about a lot of us. I called it ‘the forgotten man and the forgotten woman.’ Well, you’re not forgotten anymore.”
Echoing the event’s namesake and the slogan emblazoned on red baseball caps across the country, Trump wrapped up his remarks with his four favorite words — with an added twist. “We’re going to do things that haven’t been done for our country for many, many decades,” he said. “It’s going to change. So I’ll see you tomorrow. I don’t care frankly if it’s going to be beautiful or if it’s gonna rain like crazy — makes no difference to me. I’m going to be cheering you on. You’re going to be cheering me on, but I’m going to be cheering you on. Because what we’ve done is so special. All over the world they’re talking about it. I love you folks, and we’re gonna work together.
“And we are going to Make America Great Again — and I’ll add: greater than ever before.”
Trump will be sworn in to office on Friday, after Jackie Evancho sings the national anthem to begin the ceremony.