The reception was themed “African Americans in Times of War,” and was dedicated to celebrating black people who have served in the military since the American Revolution.
“Long before our nation righted the wrongs of slavery and segregation, African Americans gave their hearts, their sweat, their blood and their very lives to defend the United States, its flag and its highest ideal," the president said to the audience.
The AP reports that President Trump also paid tribute to Army Sergeant William Carney, who was the first African American Medal of Honor recipient and who protected the American flag in battle during the Civil War.
“Sergeant Carney saw the color guard of his unit fall," said Trump. "He threw down his rifle, raced to grab the flag and carry it forward, planting it on the walls of the fort, where he held off gunfire, and enduring multiple wounds, he continued to guard that great American flag throughout the entire battle. He later remarked to his comrades that the old flag never touched the ground."
During his remarks, the president also took time out to credit himself for lowering black unemployment again, despite the fact that it rose in January and experts say he had nothing to do with the decline.
“It was just announced — and perhaps you heard me say it — we had the lowest African American unemployment rate in the history of our country,” Trump said. “We are very, very proud of that.”
Trump was joined at the event by wife Melania along with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, the only black top-level members of the Trump administration. The third, Omarosa Manigault-Newman, made her dramatic departure in late December.