Donald Trump has told a crowd of people – many of them children gathered for the White House Easter egg roll – that the US “will be stronger and bigger and better as a nation than ever before”.
Mr Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and their youngest son Baron addressed the crowd on the south lawn from the White House balcony before proceeding to join them.
Observers said Mr Trump’s comments that America was “right on track” appeared out of place as the annual children’s event, in its 139th year, is not known to be a political one.
The public and social aspect of the occasion make it “the single most high-profile event that takes place at the White House each year, and the White House and the first lady are judged on how well they put it on,” Melinda Bates, the director of the White House Visitors Office under President Bill Clinton, told CNN.
Military families, thousands of children from local hospitals and schools, and families of staff are invited to join in the festivities, which include searching for commemorative wooden eggs, an egg dyeing station, and treat baskets for children.
The 2017 Easter egg roll is actually a dialled-down version of previous years’ events.
Stephanie Grisham, Ms Trump’s communications director, told CNN that Ms Trump wanted to bring “back some traditional elements, like military bands, and focusing on the family itself”.
“We’re really focused on quality of the experience over quantity of attendees,“ Ms Grisham said.
Celebrities would routinely make an appearance at the Obama events, including Beyonce, Justin Bieber, and several professional athletes.
In 2016, the Obama family hosted 37,000 people and handed out 85,000 wooden eggs. The Trump family is expecting closer to 20,000 people and 18,000 eggs.
The event also includes stations for children to write thank you notes to US troops as well as an Easter Bunny.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer famously wore the costume in 2008 during the George W Bush administration, but posted a picture on Instagram showing someone else took on the task this year.
The White House did not announce the event would even take place until March. With Ms Trump permanently residing in New York, many former staff remarked on the last-minute and haphazard manner in which the event was thrown together.
Political journalist Kate Andersen Brower said the event was a chance for First Ladies to build their public persona.
She said Ms Trump “has big shoes to fill when it comes to an event like this. Michelle Obama was a natural with kids”.