There was no mistaking the clear message President Donald Trump made in his inaugural address: America comes first.
In a terse 16-minute speech that differed from his predecessors, Trump shunned the United States’ recent attempts at globalization and embraced nationalism while echoing the same populist themes that led to his unexpected victory.
“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land,” he told the hundreds of thousands who had gathered at the Capitol. “From this moment on, it’s going to be America first.”
Trump attempted to put the divisive politics of the bruising presidential campaign aside but quickly pivoted to what he considers the federal government’s role in promoting America as he ushered in an era of leadership the nation has never seen before.
“Jan. 20, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again,” he said. “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”
The businessman turned reality TV show host offered the same promise of change that he had on the campaign trail in his successful race against Hillary Clinton.
“Today’s ceremony has very special meaning because today we are not merely transferring power from one president to another or from party to another,” he said. “We are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.”
He described mothers and children trapped in poverty, rusted-out factories, poor schools and crime-ridden communities.
“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” he said.
The 45th president’s inaugural address offered a blueprint for his four years in office – creating jobs, fixing the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, and improving schools – but he included the same divisive issues from his campaign speeches, such as protecting the border.
Under his leadership, he said, the country will buy American and hire American and build global alliances but not force other countries to impose our way of life on anyone.
Friday’s speech lacked the soaring rhetoric of those of his predecessors, including Barack Obama, seated just a few feet from him. Instead, Trump used familiar phrases from the campaign, “Make America great again” and “America first” — also the name of an anti-Semitic organization that had urged the country to appease Adolf Hitler decades ago.
“Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American factories,” Trump said.
Trump spoke confidently about his abilities to fix the problems of this country with no even tacit acknowledgment that he was entering office as the least popular incoming president in generations.
“I will fight for you with every breath in my body – and I will never, ever let you down,” he said.
The speech was more about what he could do and less about what Americans could do, a stark difference from Obama, whose major speeches always urged those with differing views to work together to accomplish something.
As he has done many times since the election, Trump mentioned again the movement created by the anger felt in the country.
“You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before,” he said. “At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.”
Trump, who was criticized for his insults of women and minorities during the campaign, called for unity through patriotism even as more than 50 Democratic members of the House of Representatives boycotted the event.
“Whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots,” he said. “”When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”
He didn’t utter the name of his former rival, seated a few feet away with former President Bill Clinton, though he thanked the Obamas “for their gracious aid throughout the transition” even as he condemned what Obama had helped America become. As hundreds of members of Congress surrounded him, he blasted both parties for their inaction.
“We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action – constantly complaining but never doing anything about it,” he said. “The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.”
The speech shouldn’t have been surprising.
This is, after all, a man who’s thrived on disagreement and discord. His past speeches often failed to reach out to the other side and included policy prescriptions – like building a wall on the Mexican border.
Trump’s aides say he wrote Friday’s address himself, starting on vacation at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. This week, he released a photo of himself writing what he said was his inaugural address by hand last month.
He concluded with the same promises he’d made over and over as he crisscrossed the nation on the campaign trail.
“Together, we will make America strong again,” he said. “We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And, yes, together we will make America great again.”
Just after the speech, Trump signed a proclamation declaring a national day of patriotism, spokesman Sean Spicer tweeted, though it was unclear what day was named.