WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump made his debut on Washington’s social circuit on Sunday by headlining an annual fundraiser for Ford’s Theater, scene of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
Trump, accompanied by his wife, first lady Melania Trump, said he was glad to help continue “this long tradition of preserving one of America’s most important theaters and honoring one of its greatest presidents and recognizing some of its most accomplished citizens.”
Trump said Ford’s Theater contributes to the “vibrant culture of our nation’s capital” and does “tremendous work” educating Americans about “a leader who preserved our nation in its single greatest hour of danger and forged a new birth of freedom from our bloody civil war.”
The president told the audience — Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen; members of Congress, Cabinet secretaries and others — that partly because of their efforts “Lincoln’s presence is not just here. It lives with us down through the ages. He suffered so much. His life was hard and he’s remembered for his leadership, inspiration and his enduring vision of a government of, for and by the people.”
Trump said it was also a “special pleasure” for him to watch as two of his friends, former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and businessman and philanthropist Ronald Perelman, received the Lincoln Medal. The theater’s society gives the medal to individuals whose body of work, accomplishments or personal attributes embodies Lincoln’s legacy.
Manning was seen at the White House earlier Sunday after he returned with Trump from the president’s golf club in Northern Virginia.
Trump’s rare evening on the town marked a coming out of sorts for the president on the Washington social scene.
He has been somewhat of a homebody since taking office on Jan. 20, limiting his socializing to the White House or his Trump-branded properties. He has turned down invitations to one highly anticipated staple of the D.C. social calendar after another, where a presidential appearance has been par for the course for decades.
Trump declined to attend dinners held by the Alfalfa Club, the Gridiron Club and the White House Correspondents’ Association. He has had a prickly relationship with the news media and he held a rally in Pennsylvania on April 29 — the night of the White House correspondents’ dinner — to celebrate his 100th day in office.
Ronald Reagan was the most recent president to skip the annual dinner thrown by the White House press corps; he was recovering after being shot during an assassination attempt.