On July 1, a church choir and orchestra from Texas performed a song for an audience that included President Donald Trump. It was called “Make America Great Again,” a nod to the campaign slogan that helped propel Trump to the presidency.
It was part of the “Celebrate Freedom” concert, to honor veterans, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. Trump spoke at the event, then days later, he shared a video clip of the song to celebrate the Fourth of July.
On Sunday, he shared the song again, this time as the soundtrack to a series of photographs showing Trump mingling with foreign leaders at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Hamburg, Germany.
The song, as performed in concert, was short and simple: a mix of piety and patriotism that did not explicitly mention religion or government.
But it repeated Trump’s most well-known campaign line, “Make America great again,” nine times, and some critics called it propaganda.
“Just watched Trump’s MAGA song, his 4th of July wish to us,” one Twitter user, Peter Norvid, wrote. “Not sure I’ll be able to eat for the rest of the day. He defined narcissistic!!”
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the song.
The choir and orchestra that performed the song belonged to the First Baptist Church of Dallas, an evangelical church led by Robert Jeffress. The church co-sponsored the concert with the Salem Media Group, a media company that focuses on Christian and conservative content.
The original composition had verses that were left out of the July performance, said the song’s composer, Gary Moore, a former minister of music at the First Baptist Church of Dallas who now works at a Baptist church in Houston.
Moore, 73, said he was surprised to see the song shared twice by the president on social media. He first composed it shortly after the November election, but he said the words “make America great again” were not only a reference to Trump.
They were also a tribute to the Founding Fathers’ respect for freedom of speech and freedom of religion, he said. “I think that’s what made our country great to begin with,” he said. “And I think we have to work to make it great every morning.”
The Kennedy Center event came on a day when Trump was particularly active on Twitter; he posted a flier for the evening’s festivities in between criticizing the news media and insulting MSNBC morning show hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.
On July 2, just after midnight, Trump tweeted a photograph of himself at the Kennedy Center and wrote that the United States would always take care of its veterans. Later that morning, he shared a video of himself wrestling and repeatedly punching a man with a CNN logo superimposed over his face.
Since he shared a video clip of the song, it has been retweeted more than 30,000 times by fans who praised the performance, and by critics who wondered why the president had not shared the national anthem instead.
Jeffress, who could not be reached for comment, has a close relationship with the president and was appointed to Trump’s evangelical executive advisory board during the campaign. The pastor delivered a sermon for Trump and his family on the morning of the president’s Jan. 20 inauguration and has defended the administration as a commentator on Fox News.
On July 1, after the choir had performed several songs, Jeffress introduced Trump and noted his popularity with evangelical voters. “President Trump has done more to protect religious liberty than any president in United States history, and we are grateful to him for that,” he said.
Then Trump took the stage and thanked the pastor for his support. “Tonight we have been inspired by music that fills our hearts, stirs our souls and reminds us all of who we are: one nation, under God,” he added.
Moore, who was at the July 1 performance but did not take the stage, said he was surprised and flattered that the song had gotten so much attention from the president, the country and — after the G-20 tweet — the world.
“You just kind of go with the flow,” he said. “I have a pretty deep patriotic bent in me. If people can sing that and be inspired by it, I’m grateful.”