President Donald Trump on Monday made an unannounced trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington. The president did not mention the civil rights icon during the visit, which ended about two minutes after he arrived.
“Good morning, everybody,” Trump told reporters after laying a wreath in front of the monument. “It’s a great day. It’s a beautiful day. And thank you for being here. Appreciate it.”
Vice President Mike Pence tagged along for the surprise trip. Neither Trump nor Pence had public events listed on their schedules for Monday, the second Martin Luther King Jr. Day observed since Trump took office in January 2017.
Trump faced scrutiny last year when he did not attend a public event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Instead, he visited one of his golf clubs in Florida. He remained in Washington on Monday as the ongoing partial government shutdown entered its 31st day.
Trump’s quick trip to the memorial on Monday offered a stark contrast with past presidents, such as Barack Obama and George W. Bush, who spent MLK Day volunteering or visiting memorials in the civil rights icon’s honor during their presidencies.
Around midmorning Monday, Trump tweeted a link to a proclamation he signed last week declaring Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“Today we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for standing up for the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear, that no matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal by God,” the president tweeted.
Pence quoted King on Sunday during an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” in an attempt to sell Trump’s long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King was, ‘Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy,’” Pence said. “You think of how he changed America, he inspired us to change through the legislative process.”
But King did not support using walls to divide people, as he stated in a speech to over 20,000 people during a visit to East and West Berlin in 1964.
“It is indeed an honor to be in this city, which stands as a symbol of the divisions of men on the face of the earth,” King told East Berliners. “For here on either side of the wall are God’s children, and no man-made barrier can obliterate that fact.”
This story has been updated throughout.