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Toby Keith Opens Up About Performing During Donald Trump’s Inauguration

Toby Keith Donald Trump inauguration
Rick Diamond, Getty Images for CRS

During President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, Toby Keith proudly performed at the Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration. Although the singer has performed at multiple presidential inaugurations, his involvement in Trump’s festivities drew more criticism and outcry than usual.

“There’s no reason not to do it,” Keith shared during his talk at the 2017 Country Radio Seminar. “I know a bunch of people were committed. I know a bunch of people — I’m not naming names — but there’s a bunch of people that I didn’t think would have considered it who were committed, and they backed out due to pressure.”

Keith says that he received several texts telling him that he was brave for participating in the Inauguration Weekend event, but the Oklahoma native says that he never considered backing out in spite of the backlash.

“In the end, it just makes you stronger,” Keith says. “If you don’t succumb to that kind of pressure, you’ll always come out stronger: Your fans will love you more, your friends will love you more, and at the end of the day, you just get another notch on your gun belt.”

Keith is no stranger to controversy, from both sides of the political aisle.

“When I went to play the Nobel Peace Prize concert [in 2009], a foreign press said that the Parliament deemed it improper for me to be there … That was for [then-President] Barack [Obama],” Keith recalls. “At the end of the day, I was asked to perform the military part of the show at [Trump’s] inauguration. It’s a weaker stance if you back out. A lot of people did. I shouldn’t have to. This is our country.

“We’re so divided,” Keith continues. “If you allow that to happen, and you succumb to that pressure, then it divides us and keeps incapacitating us.”

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As fans know, Keith’s American spirit runs deep: The 55-year-old has been an avid supporter of the USO since his first overseas performance through the organization, and he chooses to make performing for the troops a regular part of his schedule.

“We saw such a void [when] we [first] visited with USO, and my whole group, my whole organization, saw that void was different than when Bob Hope did it,” notes Keith. “Marilyn Monroe went, cheerleaders went, movie stars. And then it got where it was like, same thing when you go to the inauguration — you get hated on for going; you literally get hated for supporting the troops. It’s complete bulls–t, that’s what it is.”

Keith isn’t willing to listen to excuses for not participating in USO events.

“There’s two or three things: They’re too lazy to do it, you’re afraid to go over there, or you don’t want to be connected with it. And one of those three things will knock somebody out,” he says. “So we saw the void and just started raising the benchmark. We said, ‘We’re going to champion this thing’ …

“The memories, the geography lessons, the history lessons, the friends I’ve made, the families that have become part of my big family, that’s the reason you can look me in the eye and say, ‘I don’t have to apologize for supporting our troops.’”

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