A promise to 'make America great for everybody'

Mr Trump and his wife Melania at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Thursday. Earlier in the day, he was at Arlington National Cemetery, where he and Vice-President Mike Pence laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as part of a ceremony
Mr Trump and his wife Melania at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Thursday. Earlier in the day, he was at Arlington National Cemetery, where he and Vice-President Mike Pence laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as part of a ceremony honouring veterans.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Trump says he wants to unify nation after a particularly divisive presidential election

WASHINGTON • On the eve of his inauguration, Mr Donald Trump offered a measure of humility and a promise of unity to thousands of supporters who had arrived in Washington for the ceremony.

"This journey began 18 months ago," he said on Thursday, addressing a crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. "I had something to do with it, but you had much more to do with it. I am just a messenger."

Reiterating the promises he made in his successful campaign - hardened borders and a strengthened military - Mr Trump said he wanted to unify the nation after a particularly divisive election.

"We are going to make America great for everybody," he said.

Mr Trump touched down earlier in the day at Joint Base Andrews, just outside Washington, about 24 hours before taking his oath of office at the West Front of the Capitol.

Mr Trump and his wife Melania at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Thursday. Earlier in the day, he was at Arlington National Cemetery, where he and Vice-President Mike Pence laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as part of a ceremony
Mr Trump and his wife Melania at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Thursday. Earlier in the day, he was at Arlington National Cemetery, where he and Vice-President Mike Pence laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as part of a ceremony honouring veterans. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

He traded his personally branded Boeing 757 for a US Air Force version of the same plane, following the custom of a first flight to the nation's capital aboard a military aircraft.

He participated in a series of pre-inaugural rituals and celebrations, beginning with a reception at the Trump International Hotel he opened last year.

"It is going to be a very humbling and moving day for the President- elect, his family and mine," Vice- President-elect Mike Pence said at a briefing for reporters on Thursday. "We are ready to go to work. In fact, we can't wait to get to work for the American people."

On Thursday afternoon, Mr Trump travelled to Arlington National Cemetery, where he and Mr Pence laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as part of a ceremony honouring veterans.

They then crossed the Potomac River for a welcome ceremony on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

"There has never been a movement like this," Mr Trump said, describing the wave of support among working-class Americans who propelled him to the White House. "Well, you are not forgotten any more," he said. "We are going to get it turned around. We are going to bring our jobs back."

In the evening, Mr Trump, Mr Pence and their spouses attended a black-tie inaugural dinner at Union Station. Guests included donors, Cabinet nominees and members of Congress.

There, Mr Trump offered shout- outs to thank several people who had helped him during the campaign, including his daughter Ivanka, who was present.

He summoned his campaign manager, Ms Kellyanne Conway, up to the stage, where he praised her ability to hold her own in hostile television interviews.

 

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Mr Trump's inauguration day programme would include morning tea at the White House with departing President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, before heading to Capitol Hill for the inauguration ceremony.

"The big one is tomorrow at around 12," he told the guests, referring to his swearing-in followed by his inaugural speech.

"It may rain, it may not rain," said Mr Trump, whose blond hair has been a constant source of speculation. "If it really pours, that is okay, because people will realise it is my real hair," he joked.

"It might be a mess, but they are going to see that it is my real hair."

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2017, with the headline 'A promise to 'make America great for everybody''. Print Edition | Subscribe