President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday highlighted contributions from African-American military personnel throughout U.S. history in a commemoration of Black History Month.
Delivering remarks during a reception at the White House, Trump cited the administration’s theme for the annual observance — “African-Americans in Times of War” — in praising the influence of black military service in shaping the country.
“African-Americans have fought courageously in every war since the Revolution,” Trump told attendees. “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 ideals. Thank you.”
He added: “The very proud history of African-Americans serving our country in uniform began way back in our nation’s founding.”
The president was flanked at the event by Surgeon General Jerome Adams, an African-American anesthesiologist in June was nominated by Trump to become the 20th person to serve in the leading role of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
The president again touted progress in reducing African-American unemployment at the event, a feat he prominently mentioned during his State of the Union address last month.
“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.”
Black employment dropped to 6.8 percent in December, the lowest level recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics since it began tracking the measure in 1972. But the figure ticked up to 7.7 percent in January, the largest single-month increase in years.
Vice President Mike Pence marked Black History Month earlier on Tuesday by visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which he called “hallowed ground” and hailed as a reminder of the United States’ “difficult past.”
“This has been a payment of a debt of gratitude to Americans who, since before our nation’s founding, have contributed mightily,” Pence said during an address to attendees.
The vice president said it was “deeply humbling” to deliver remarks at the museum to commemorate Black History Month, and also noted African-Americans’ long history of military service.
“It truly is amazing,” Pence said, “to think about the contributions of African-Americans in the uniform of the United States.”
Elizabeth Castillo contributed to this report.