President-elect Donald J. Trump and wife Melania appear at the "Make America Great Again" celebration concert at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. The day's celebrations formally started Trump's inauguration as 45th president of the United States -- and ended with the billionaire pledging to make the government work for "everybody." Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI/Pool | License Photo
Jan. 19 (UPI) -- On his final day as president-elect, Donald Trump kicked off his inauguration Thursday with a visit to Washington, D.C. -- beginning with a time-honored flight into the nation's capital, a tribute to military veterans and a concert on the National Mall.
After enjoying the concert with his family at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Thursday evening, which included several musical acts, Trump and wife Melania walked to the top of the steps -- with the statue of Lincoln, a revered Republican figure, behind them -- to punctuate the event.
"So this journey began 18 months ago. I had something to do with it, but you had much more to do with it," Trump told thousands of cheering supporters in the crowd. "I'm the messenger. I'm just the messenger."
"We all got tired of seeing what was happening and we wanted change, but we wanted real change," he continued. "I look so forward to tomorrow. We are going to see something that is going to be so amazing.
"There has never been a movement like this."
As is customary, Trump arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., early Thursday aboard a U.S. Air Force Boeing 757, with "United States of America" emblazoned on the fuselage. The event marked Trump's first trip in such an aircraft -- and a departure from the Trump-branded plane that shuttled him across the nation during his campaign.
After his arrival, Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence visited Arlington National Cemetery and laid a wreath to honor U.S. military veterans. That visit was followed by the trek to the Lincoln Memorial.
The weather on the Mall during Thursday afternoon's ceremonies was mostly cloudy and temperatures hovered around 50 degrees just before sunset. Forecasters expect rain on Friday.
Trump, however, said it makes no difference to him what weather will greet him on his first day as president.
"I have a feeling it's going to be beautiful," he said.
Thursday's activities at Andrews and Arlington are well-established traditions for incoming U.S. commanders in-chief, and they represented the formal start of the 58th U.S. presidential inauguration. The concert at the memorial, though, was Trump's idea.
"We had the idea, 'maybe we will do it in front of the Lincoln Memorial,'" he said. "I don't know if it's ever been done before."
Country stars Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood, rock groups 3 Doors Down and The Piano Guys, DJ RaviDrum and The Frontmen of Country with Tim Rushlow, Larry Stewart and Richie McDonald performed at the event, which was called the "Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration."
"Our phrase, you all know it, half of you are wearing the hat -- Make America Great Again -- but we are going to make America great for all of our people," Trump said. "That includes the inner cities, that includes everybody."
The concert was followed by a dramatic fireworks show over the National Mall, which the entire Trump family watched atop the Lincoln Memorial steps.
After arriving in Washington, Trump visited his new hotel for a luncheon to celebrate his forthcoming administration. During the banquet, the leader in-waiting championed his Cabinet nominees, who have been vetted by Senate committees since last week.
"We have by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled," Trump said at the earlier luncheon.
An inaugural dinner was held later Thursday evening, and was the final event before Friday's landmark ceremonies that will see Trump sworn-in at the U.S. Capitol.
"I can only tell you, 18 months ago ... a lot of people didn't give us much of a chance but we understood what was happening," Trump said. "I promise you that I will work so hard. We're going to get it turned around.
"I'll see you tomorrow. ... and we are going to make America great again -- and I'll add, greater than ever before."