By Landry Harlan
BU News Service
Washington — “God has answered all our prayers,” said actor Jon Voight to a crowd of thousands at the Make America Great Again Welcome Celebration tonight on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Voight, the only actor to speak at the event, railed against the campaign season’s “barrage of propaganda” before introducing the evening’s first musical act, the “legendary” soul singer Sam Moore. Moore, famous for the hit “Soul Man,” crooned “America the Beautiful” as most attendees watched on large screens with a second delay, making each act seem as if it were prerecorded.
“The screens are like something out of ‘Wayne’s World’,” said Ryan Rone, a Trump supporter and Toby Keith fan from South Amboy, N.J.
The most frequently-appearing act was RaviDrums, a DJ and drummer with spiked hair and a drum set that looked more like a spaceship than instrument. Dancers in robot costumes gyrating to the beats and flashing lights backed him up. After their fourth appearance without President-elect Donald Trump coming onstage, a collective sigh rose from the crowd.
Next to a refreshment stand selling $3 water and $6 hot dogs was a man wearing a red shirt. Emblazoned on the back in white letters: “Blacks Can Be Racist and Commit Hate Crimes Too!!!” Johnny Ferguson, a minor celebrity in Washington, D.C., as well as on the Internet, is known as the “Weird Racist T-Shirt Guy.”
“I just came here to wear my shirt. I hate the double standard,” said Ferguson, a plastics plant operator from Lake Jackson, Texas. “I can’t tell you exactly where I work or I’ll get fired.”
As the sun set, mostly shrouded by clouds, rock band 3 Doors Down started their set to scattered applause and hollers. Only a handful of onlookers sang along to the band’s hits, including “Kryptonite” and “Here Without You,” released in 2000 and 2002, respectively. Most were just eager to hear Trump speak after listening to nearly two hours of acts and traveling to DC from hundreds of miles away.
Charlene Aucoin made the trip all the way from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was decked out in Louisiana State University Tigers gear and a hat pinned with several Trump buttons. In her hand was a bag with a 1920’s flapper costume. She was heading to a Great Gatsby Ball right after the event.
“I went to every rally in Baton Rouge,” Aucoin said. “I like (Trump’s) morals: no abortions, no killing babies, one man for one woman. God set the rules and they haven’t changed since.” “Donald is a changed man. I’ve seen it,” she said.
Toby Keith was the last and biggest musical act of the night to appear, holding his signature solo cup as he sang “Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)”, a fitting song to end the night and campaign season. By this time the crowd was packed like sardines and huddled around the screens. The man they were waiting for was about to take stage.
Presidential Inaugural Committee chair Tom Barrack introduced Trump with a call for reflection around the pool named for it.
“He will show the rest of the world that we can argue, we can fight, we can debate, and tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. we’re one country and he will be the 45th President of the United States of America,” Barrack said.
To the chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump,” Donald Trump took the microphone and spoke for about seven minutes without a teleprompter, thanking the acts and remarking that tomorrow is going to be, “so amazing.”
“We had the idea to do it in front of the Lincoln Memorial. I don’t know if it has ever happened before, but if it has, it’s been very seldom,” Trump said. “We didn’t know if anyone would even come tonight. This hasn’t been done before.”
President Barack Obama’s “We Are One” inaugural celebration took place at Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 18, 2009.
“We’re going to make America great for all of our people. That includes the inner cities. That includes all of our people,” Trump said. “They forgot all about us. On the campaign I called it the ‘Forgotten Man’ and the ‘Forgotten Woman’. Well, you’re not forgotten anymore.”
After Trump’s remarks, the fireworks spectacle began, including a red, white and blue “USA” display. iPhones flew up to snap photos as the explosions lit up the Lincoln Memorial.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Trump said to loud cheers. “I don’t care, frankly, if it’s going to be beautiful or if it’s gonna rain like crazy. It’s no difference to me. I have a feeling it’s going to be beautiful.”
The forecast for tomorrow, Inauguration Day, calls for rain all morning.