Donnie Reis, a national recording artist and producer from Tipp City and an Iraq War veteran, respects Civil Rights, women’s rights and the right to protest — but above all else, he respects the democratic process, which manifests itself every four years as the inauguration of the President of the United States.
Reis said he considered it an honor to perform Friday at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, where he sang and played violin with The Frontmen of Country band, led by country music singers Larry Stewart, Richie McDonald and Tim Rushlow.
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The group was joined by fellow country artist, Lee Greenwood, to perform his iconic song “God Bless the U.S.A” for President Trump, his family and thousands of attendees on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall.
“That was the highlight for me,” said Reis during a phone interview Saturday from Washington. “Standing up on stage and looking out over a sea of people from all different walks of life, singing “God Bless the U.S.A,” and hearing them sing it back; It took everything I had not just to cry.”
During his week in Washington, Reis said he also performed at the inauguration’s Freedom Ball, an annual gala for active-duty military and veterans.
“I told my wife, I’m done dressing up for the year,” Reis said with a laugh, adding that he didn’t hesitate to accept his invitation to the inauguration from The Frontment, whom he described as longtime friends and collaborators who he has toured with around the world.
Still, the invitation came with a caveat, recognizing President Trump’s controversial campaign and transition to the White House, which have generated accusations of racism and sexism and led some prominent musicians to boycott the inauguration.
“The first thing they asked me was if I was sure I wanted to do this,” Reis said. “I respect their (other artists’) decision to say no, but I decided to perform because I love this country. I love what this country stands for.”
That includes the right to peaceful protest, Reis said, noting that as emotional as he was on Friday, he was just as enthusiastic Saturday to be among tens of thousands of protestors who descended on Washington from across the country to participate in the Women’s March on Washington — an event designed to support women’s rights and a progressive social agenda that spawned sister movements in several different countries.
“This is something that should unite us,” Reis said. “I’m not attending the march in any anti-American stance. This is just democracy. This is what I fought for. I’ve been to places where democracy doesn’t exist.”
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