Speaking after the legendary U.S. Navy Blue Angels roared overhead, President Trump ushered in the July 4th weekend Friday night at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota with a full-throated condemnation of "far-left fascism" and a defense of "Judeo-Christian principles."
"This monument will never be desecrated," Trump declared to cheers and applause. "These heroes will never be defaced. Their legacy will never, ever be destroyed. Their achievements will never be forgotten. And Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom."
The president asserted that recent attacks on the nation's monuments, alongside "cancel culture" and the rise of the Marxist ideology of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, were symptoms of a "left-wing cultural revolution" that was threatening to "overthrow the American Revolution." BLM explicitly advocates the destruction of the "nuclear family structure," which Trump said was in fact the "bedrock of American life."
"We only kneel to Almighty God," Trump remarked, in a clear shot at athletes who kneel in protest during the national anthem. "We will not be intimidated by bad, evil people. It will not happen."
"We are the country of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Frederick Douglass," Trump said. "We are the land of Wild Bill Hickock and Buffalo Bill Cody. We are the nation that gave rise to the Wright Brothers, the Tuskegee Airmen — Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Jesse Owens, George Patton — General George Patton — the great Louie Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Elvis Presley, and Mohammad Ali. And only America could have produced them all. No other place."
"We only kneel to Almighty God. We will not be intimidated by bad, evil people. It will not happen."
Americans are the ones, Trump added, "that put up the Hoover Dam, laid down the highways, and sculpted the skyline of Manhattan. We are the people who dreamed a spectacular dream — it was called: Las Vegas, in the Nevada desert; who built up Miami from the Florida marsh; and who carved our heroes into the face of Mount Rushmore. Americans harnessed electricity, split the atom, and gave the world the telephone and the Internet. We settled the Wild West, won two World Wars, landed American astronauts on the Moon — and one day very soon, we will plant our flag on Mars."
The United States "gave the world the poetry of Walt Whitman, the stories of Mark Twain, the songs of Irving Berlin, the voice of Ella Fitzgerald, the style of Frank Sinatra — the comedy of Bob Hope, the power of the Saturn V rocket, the toughness of the Ford F-150 — and the awesome might of the American aircraft carriers," Trump said. "Americans must never lose sight of this miraculous story."
"We will state the truth in full, without apology: We declare that the United States of America is the most just and exceptional nation ever to exist on Earth," Trump said. "We are proud of the fact that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and we understand that these values have dramatically advanced the cause of peace and justice throughout the world."
Trump, who separately praised police officers and vowed to defend the Second Amendment, then announced plans to create "a new monument to the giants of our past." He said he would sign an executive order to establish the "National Garden of American Heroes" -- a "vast outdoor park" to feature the statues of the "greatest Americans to ever live."
After Trump spoke, the White House released text of an executive order establishing the garden, which expressly notes that it will include only lifelike representations and eschew "modernist or abstract interpretations."
A preliminary list of people to be honored in the garden includes John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Henry Clay, Davy Crockett, MLK, Amelia Earhart, Benjamin Franklin, Ronald Reagan, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Antonin Scalia, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, Jackie Robinson, Christopher Columbus, Junipero Serra, and Betsy Ross.
In his address, Trump characterized endemic efforts to terminate and humiliate dissent as a form of "totalitarianism" and an "attack on our magnificent liberty" -- and promised that it "will be stopped very quicky."
"One of their political weapons is 'Cancel Culture' — driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees," Trump said. "This is the very definition of totalitarianism, and it is completely alien to our culture and our values, and it has absolutely no place in the United States of America. This attack on our liberty, our magnificent liberty, must be stopped, and it will be stopped very quickly. We will expose this dangerous movement, protect our nation’s children, end this radical assault, and preserve our beloved American way of life."
The "violent mayhem we have seen in our streets and cities," which are "run by liberal Democrats in every case," Trump said, "is the predictable result of years of extreme indoctrination and bias in education, journalism and other cultural institutions. Against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country and to believe that the men and women who built it weren't heroes, but villains. The radical view of American history is a web of lies."
Conservatives have recently objected to some public schools' decision to teach false information from The New York Times' "1619 Project." The author of that project has acknowledged her own anti-white racism, and core claims of the project have been debunked by historians.
Hours before Trump spoke, CNN, echoing The New York Times, derided Mount Rushmore as a monument to slaveholders on stolen native lands. The New York Times' newsroom also sits on land taken from natives; and several CNN reporters previously praised Mount Rushmore as recently as 2016.
“This movement is openly attacking the legacies of every person on Mount Rushmore," Trump said, referring to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
"From this night, and from this magnificent place, let us go forward united in our purpose and rededicated in our resolve. We will raise the next generation of American patriots."
Trump's comments followed a series of protests and riots across the country that led to the destruction of numerous monuments, as well as the terminations of high-level academics and policy experts simply for challenging Black Lives Matter's push to defund all police departments.
"They want to silence us," Trump said, as cheers of "U-S-A!" broke out. "But we will not be silenced. ... We want free and open debate, not cancel culture. ... Their goal is not a better America. Their goal is to end America. ... But just as in centuries past, the American people will stand in their way."
"Their goal is not a better America. Their goal is to end America. ... But just as in centuries past, the American people will stand in their way."
Trump specifically praised the FBI's recent arrest of the "ringleader" of several statue attacks, as well as his executive order to increase punishments for those who deface monuments.
'"As we meet here tonight, there is a growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for, struggled, and bled to secure," Trump said, warning of a concerted attempt to "wipe out our history" and "indoctrinate our children."
"They think the American people are weak and soft and submissive," the president continued, to applause, "But no, the American people are strong and proud. And they will not allow our country and its values and history and culture to be taken from them."
"Those who seek to erase our heritage want Americans to forget our pride and our great dignity, so that we can no longer understand ourselves or America’s destiny,” Trump said.
It is time, Trump said, for American politicians to summon "bravery" to confront the moment, and challenge the so-called "social justice" proponents who work to divide Americans and seek a breakdown in social order.
"For the sake of our honor, for the sake of our children, for the sake of our children, we must protect and preserve our history, our heritage and our great heroes," he continued."
One by one, Trump praised each face on Mount Rushmore.
"From head to toe, George Washington represented the strength, grace, and dignity of the American people," Trump remarked. "From a small volunteer force of citizen farmers, he created the Continental Army out of nothing and rallied them to stand against the most powerful military on Earth. Through eight long years, through the brutal winter at Valley Forge, through setback after setback on the field of battle, he led those patriots to ultimate triumph. When the Army had dwindled to a few thousand men at Christmas of 1776, when defeat seemed absolutely certain, he took what remained of his forces on a daring nighttime crossing of the Delaware River."
Trump continued: "They marched through nine miles of frigid darkness, many without boots on their feet, leaving a trail of blood in the snow. In the morning, they seized victory at Trenton. After forcing the surrender of the most powerful empire on the planet at Yorktown, General Washington did not claim power, but simply returned to Mount Vernon as a private citizen. When called upon again, he presided over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and was unanimously elected our first president. When he stepped down after two terms, his former adversary King George called him 'the greatest man of the age.' He remains first in our hearts to this day. For as long as Americans love this land, we will honor and cherish the father of our country, George Washington. He will never be removed, abolished, and most of all, he will never be forgotten."
Trump went on to praise Thomas Jeefferson, saying he "brilliantly authored one of the greatest treasures of human history, the Declaration of Independence," and Abraham Lincoln as the "savior of our union." Theodore Roosevelt, Trump added, "exemplified the unbridled confidence of our national culture and identity. He saw the towering grandeur of America’s mission in the world and he pursued it with overwhelming energy and zeal."
The small town of Keystone, which lies a couple of miles from the monument, was buzzing with people Friday hoping to catch a glimpse of the fireworks and the president. Many wore pro-Trump T-shirts and hats. Few wore masks.
“This is going to rank up in the top Fourth of Julys that I talk about,” said Mike Stewhr, who brought his family from Nebraska.
The event drew thousands of spectators, most of them without masks, even as coronavirus cases spiked across the country. The president spoke before a big fireworks show, the first to be held at the site in more than a decade.
Hours before Trump arrived, protesters blocked a road leading to the monument. Authorities worked to move the demonstrators, mostly Native Americans protesting that South Dakota's Black Hills were taken from the Lakota people against treaty agreements. About 15 protesters were arrested after missing a police-imposed deadline to leave.
Trump received a South Dakota show of support, with the state Republican Party selling T-shirts that feature Trump on the memorial alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
But concern about the coronavirus risk and wildfire danger from the fireworks, along with the Native American groups' protests were also present.
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, a Trump ally, had said social distancing won't be required during the event and masks will be optional. Event organizers were to provide masks to anyone who wanted them and planned to screen attendees for symptoms of COVID-19.
In his speech, Trump largely steered clear of references to coronavirus, instead focusing on the nation's history -- and its lessons for the present.
"We will never surrender the spirit and the courage, and the cause of July 4, 1776," he said. "Upon this ground we will stand firm and unwavering."
Fox News' John Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.