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WASHINGTON — Donald Trump, sworn in Friday as the 45th U.S. president, used his inaugural address to tell the nation that he was going to put America and American workers first.
“From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first,” Trump said. The phrase echoed rhetoric he used during his successful presidential campaign. “I will never ever let you down. America will start winning, winning like never before.”
Congressional leaders and former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were among those who attended the inauguration, held at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. Several hundred thousand people also gathered on the National Mall to watch Trump take the oath of office.
Similar to language used during his campaign, the new president said American workers had been devastated through bad trade agreements that had been reached through previous administrations.
“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” Trump said. “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”
Power to the people
He also said Friday’s inauguration marked a “major, major watermark” in American history, that power had been transferred, not only from one party to another, but from Washington to the people.
“For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have bore the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. … That all changes starting right here and right now,” Trump told the crowd.
He said he will invoke “a new vision” for America, one where workers abandoned by shuttered factories and diminished economic fortunes will not be forgotten.
“This moment is your moment, it belongs to you,” Trump said. “The people become the rulers of this nation again.”
A light rain fell as the 70-year-old Trump, the oldest-ever elected U.S. chief executive, finished his speech, waving to the crowd.
In echoes from his long campaign for the White House, the Republican Trump painted a bleak picture in his inaugural address of workers who have been left behind in the world’s largest economy, buffeted by global economic changes they have been powerless to overcome.
These were voters who gave him the edge in key states, U.S. political analysts say, and handed him an unexpected win in the November election over Democrat Hillary Clinton, who watched from a nearby seat at the U.S. Capitol as he became the American leader.
Message of jobs
Trump vowed to restore jobs lost to overseas ventures, while boosting U.S. employment with reconstruction of the country’s deteriorating roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
“So to all Americans, hear these words,” he said. “You will never be ignored again.”
A short time later, as congressional leaders played host to Trump at a lavish luncheon at the Capitol, protests against him erupted in parts of downtown Washington several blocks from the inaugural parade route. Rock-throwing demonstrators clashed with police, who said more than 200 of the protesters had been arrested by early Friday evening.
At the close of the congressional luncheon, Trump gave brief remarks and surprised many by saying he was “very, very honored” that president Bill Clinton and secretary of state Hillary Clinton were there. He asked the Clintons to stand up and said he has a lot of respect for them.
He did not mention his Democratic opponent during his inauguration speech, after often referring to her as “Crooked Hillary” on the campaign trail.
Professor Jack Rakove of Stanford University told VOA that what he thought was most interesting about Trump’s speech is that it was a repudiation of all of the former presidents and congressional leaders sitting behind him — including many of his fellow Republicans.
“He’s basically telling his vision to the American people, let’s say, at least Trump voters, that they have been let down or neglected or even betrayed by the governing class that’s been living in Washington and profiting off living there while the rest of the country, its inner cities are rotting, and factories are rusting and jobs have been lost and the borders are being overrun,” Rakove said.
“But all you people living here, let’s say between Dulles Airport and the National Mall, you’ve been doing OK,” he added. “You’ve prospered as politicians and you’ve let the rest of us down. So that implicitly or really blatantly includes President Obama and Vice President (Joe) Biden, but I think it also includes [Republican Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and [Republican House Speaker] Paul Ryan and everybody else up there who’s been holding office.”
Looking to the future
Rakove said he will be watching to see how well Trump represents the Republican Party he now heads, pointing out that he holds very different positions on free trade and other issues from other Republicans.
The Stanford University history professor also told VOA he thought the speech was forcefully delivered, but that Trump failed to reach out to Americans who did not vote for him.
“I think in the end he was appealing to his own voters. I don’t think African-Americans are going to be convinced by many of his arguments about what’s going on in the cities,” Rakove said.
During his inaugural address, Trump touched only briefly on U.S. foreign policy, saying that America would seek friendship with the world while recognizing that countries abroad had a right to govern themselves as they see fit. He made clear that from now on, it will be “only America first.”
He said the United States would not seek to impose its will on others, but would “shine for everyone to follow.” Trump did not mention U.S. leadership, NATO, any of the U.S. allies or any of the global alliances the U.S. has been a part of for decades.
Trump, however, renewed his frequent vow to attack “radical Islamic terrorism,” saying he would “eradicate [it] completely from the face of the Earth.”
He took the traditional, time-honored oath, swearing as past presidents have, to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Trump replaces Obama, who served two terms in the White House.
After the ceremony, Obama and his wife, Michelle, flew to Joint Base Andrews, where he spoke to supporters. He said Americans had proved the power of hope over the past eight years. He and his wife and their two daughters departed later for a vacation in Palm Springs, California — for the last time on what had been Air Force One; for the day called Executive One.
Obama reached out to Americans using his original Twitter account, @BarackObama, promising he and Michelle would “get back to work” after their vacation.
Parade and inaugural balls
Late in the day, President Trump, first lady Melania Trump, their young son, Barron, and the adult Trump children and their spouses and children watched the inaugural parade from the viewing stand at the White House. The new first couple attended three inaugural balls in the evening.
Late Friday, Trump signed his first executive order, directing federal agencies to ease regulations associated with Obama’s sweeping health care law.
Trump also formally signed the commissions of his newly confirmed Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
Trump joked with Democratic Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer that he was sure the Senate would confirm all of his nominees.
Also in attendance for the inauguration were thousands of protesters, most of whom were peaceful. But a small number of rioters set a limousine on fire and created chaos not far from the White House in downtown Washington.
About 200,000 are expected to participate in the Women’s March on Washington Saturday.
Protesters seen as worrisome
Max Abrahms of Northwestern University told VOA the unusually high number of protesters in cities across America worries him.
“I fear that some of them will be violent, and so I think there is a really Zeitgeist right now for confrontation in the United States, with some nontrivial violent segments of those protesters,” Abrahms added. “Of course the vast majority are not violent, but many of the protesters I do worry about. And so I think that the next few days I will be playing very close attention, really hoping things go smoothly.”
He pointed out that Trump did not win the majority of the popular votes in the United States, and he said many minorities view Trump as not representing their interests.
The throng on the National Mall was large, but not nearly as big as when Obama first took office in 2009.
Many of those who witnessed Trump’s assumption of power wore hats with his trademark campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” cheering loudly when he officially became president.
VOA reporter Jim Malone contributed to this report.