Trump urges Liberty graduates to ‘never give up’
May 13, 2017
President Trump on Saturday told graduates of Liberty University to “never give up” and urged them to challenge the status quo, as he has in Washington.
“Washington is run by a small group with failed values who think they know everything. We don’t need a lecture from Washington on how to lead our lives,” Trump said in his commencement speech at Christian school Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va. “We don’t worship Washington. We worship God.”
Trump has spoken at Liberty University before. He courted Christians there in January 2016 with a speech in which he promised: “We’re going to protect Christianity, and I can say that. I don’t have to be politically correct.”
Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty’s president, helped Trump win an overwhelming 80 percent of the white evangelical vote.
Trump’s remarks Saturday in Virginia marked his first extended public appearance since he fired James Comey as FBI director this week.
The president largely has stayed out of public view since Tuesday, when he removed the head of the agency investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election, along with possible ties between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.
A recent Pew Research Center survey marking Trump’s first 100 days in office, a milestone reached on April 29, found three-quarters of white evangelicals approved of his performance as president while just 39 percent of the general public held the same view.
Christian conservatives have been overjoyed by Trump’s appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, along with Trump’s choice of socially conservative Cabinet members and other officials, such as Charmaine Yoest, a prominent anti-abortion activist named to the Department of Health and Human Services.
But they had a mixed response to an executive order on religious liberty that Trump signed last week. He directed the IRS to ease up on enforcing an already rarely enforced limit on partisan political activity by churches.
He also promised “regulatory relief” for those who object on religious grounds to the birth control coverage requirement in the Affordable Care Act health law. Yet the order did not address one of the most pressing demands from religious conservatives: broad exemptions from recognizing same-sex marriage.
Still, Falwell, who endorsed Trump in January 2016 just before that year’s Iowa caucuses, praised Trump’s actions on issues that concern Christian conservatives.
“I really don’t think any other president has done more for evangelicals and the faith community in four months than President Trump has,” Falwell told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Falwell became a key surrogate and validator for the thrice-married Trump during the campaign, frequently traveling with Trump on the candidate’s plane and appearing at events. Falwell often compared Trump to his later father, the conservative televangelist Jerry Falwell, and argued that while Trump wasn’t the most religious candidate in the race, he was the man the country needed.
Newly elected U.S. presidents often give their first commencement addresses at the University of Notre Dame, the country’s best-known Roman Catholic school.
Presidents Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush did so during their first year in office. But this year, Vice President Mike Pence will speak at Notre Dame’s graduation, becoming the first vice president to do so.
Notre Dame spokesman Paul Browne declined to say whether Trump had been invited to the May 21 ceremony, saying it was against school policy to reveal who had turned down offers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
President Donald Trump gave his first commencement speech at Liberty University on Saturday, encouraging “dreamers” to ignore critics, take risks, never quit, and remember that “in America we don’t worship government, we worship God.”
President Trump told the graduates that they are “graduating to a totally brilliant future.”
“Each of you should take immense pride in what you have achieved,” he told them.
Trump specifically recognized graduates who have served in the military, “It is truly a testament to this university and to the values that you embrace, that your graduating class includes so many patriots who have served our country in uniform.”
He also thanked Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. and members of the Falwell family.
“You are about to begin the greatest adventure of your life,” said Trump who remarked how blessed the graduates are.
Ask yourself, with all of those blessings and all of the blessings that you have been given, what will you give back to this country and indeed to the world, what imprint will you leave in the sands of history? What will future Americans say we did in our brief time right here on earth. Did we take risks? Did we dare to defy expectations? Did we challenge accepted wisdom and take on established systems? I think I did, but we all did and we’re all doing it. Or did we just go along with convention, swim downstream, so easily with the current and just give in because it was the easy way, it was the traditional way or it was the accepted way? Remember this: nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy. Following your convictions means you must be willing to face criticism from those that lack the same courage to do what is right and they know what is right but they don’t have the same courage or guts or stamina to take it and to do it. It’s called the road less traveled.
Trump said that he knows each graduate will be “a warrior for the truth”, “a warrior for our country and for your family.” He encouraged them that they will do what is right even when it isn’t easy, “You will be true to yourself, your family, your beliefs.”
The President then referred to what he has seen so far in his short time serving in Washington, D.C.:
I’ve seen firsthand how the system is broken. A small group of failed voices who think they know everything and understand everyone want to tell everybody else how to live and what to do and how to think, but you aren’t going to let other people tell you what you believe, especially when you know that you’re right.
Trump remarked that those graduating have given half a million hours of charity in just the past year.
“We don’t need a lecture from Washington on how to lead our lives,” he followed.
He said he was standing in front of leaders, one or two future U.S. presidents could be in the crowd.
“America has always been a land of dreams because America is a nation of true believers,” said Trump who then referred to the pilgrims landing at Plymouth. He remarked that the pilgrims prayed and, later, America’s Founding Fathers invoked Creator God four times in the Declaration of Independence.
“Because in America we don’t worship government, we worship God,” he said.
He recognized that United States currency bears the phrase, “In God We Trust” and referenced “One nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
“The story of America is the story of an adventure that began with deep faith, big dreams, and humble beginnings,” said Trump who said Liberty University began in the same way.
Trump remarked that many likely told Liberty University founder Jerry Falwell Sr. that his vision of such a Christian university wasn’t possible. He recognized Christian evangelical voters and their effect on the 2016 Presidential election, thanking them for voting.
“No one has ever achieved anything significant without a chorus of critics standing on the sidelines explaining why it can’t be done. Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic because they’re people that can’t get the job done,” said Trump.
“The future belongs to the dreamers and not to the critics,” he added.
He spoke of the university’s initiative to have a “world class” sports program and football team. “From the most humble roots you’ve become a powerhouse in both academics and sports,” said Trump.
President Trump went on to urge the class of 2017, “Never, ever give up, there will be times in life you’ll want to quit, you’ll want to go home…Just never quit.”
He said he has seen brilliant, top of their class people who gave up as well as those who didn’t have the same talent or ability, but are among the most successful people in the world now because they never gave up.
“Carry yourself with dignity and pride, demand the best from yourself and be totally unafraid to challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures,” he said, adding a parallel to his own path with the words, “does that sound familiar by the way?”
“The more people tell you it’s not possible, that it can’t be done, the more you should be absolutely determined to prove them wrong. Treat the word impossible as nothing more than motivation. Relish the opportunity to be an outsider,” said Trump.
“It’s the outsiders who change the world,” he declared. “The more a broken system tells you that you’re wrong the more certain you should be that you must keep pushing ahead, you must keep pushing forward.”
“Most importantly, you have to do what you love,” he counseled the graduates.
Trump recognized football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly as an inspiration to the commencement crowd. “He beat cancer not once, but twice,” said Trump. He recalled seeing Kelly and his wife Jill at a very low moment, but that they fought and Kelly pulled through. Kelly’s daughter Erin was also recognized as she graduates from Liberty University the same day.
“You are a living witness of the gospel message, of faith hope and love,” Trump told the graduates. “America is better when they put their faith into action. As long as I am your president no one is going to keep you from practicing your faith or from preaching what’s in your heart.”
“Pray to God and follow his teachings,” encouraged Trump.
Trump also recognized 98-year-old WWII veteran George Rogers. Once a POW and survivor of the Bataan Death March, he was just 85 pounds when he was recovered. Rogers formerly served as Liberty University CFO and Vice President.
“If anyone ever had reason to quit, to give into the bitterness and anger that we all face at some point, to lose hope in God’s vision for his life, it was indeed George Rogers, but that’s not what he did,” said Trump. “He defended civilization against a tide of barbarity, the kind of barbarity we are seeing today and we’ve been witnessing over the past number of years.”
Trump said America is countering this barbarity today very well and that America’s generals would have something to announce in the coming week regarding U.S. efforts.
He described Rogers’ faith in God, return home to America, and investment in Liberty University.
Trump encouraged the graduates in their futures as leaders in all aspects of life. He added, “You will have the faith to replace a broken establishment with a government that serves and protects the people.”
“We must always remember that we share one home and one glorious destiny,” said Trump.
Whether we are brown, black, or white, we all bleed the same red of patriots, we all salute the same great American flag and we are all made by the same almighty God. As long as you remember what you have learned here at Liberty, as long as you have pride in your beliefs, courage in your convictions, and faith in your God, then you will not fail. And as long as America remains true to its values, loyal to its citizens, and devoted to its Creator then our best days are yet to come, I can promise you that.
Trump was presented with an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree ahead of his speech.
Ahead of the speech Liberty Univeristy President Jerry L. Falwell, Jr. greeted the President as he deplaned in Lynchburg. Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Dina Powell traveled with Trump aboard Air Force One.
President Trump thanked the families and thanked Liberty University with wishes of God’s blessing on the class of 2017, the United States of America, and all gathered there as he concluded his first commencement message as President of the United States.
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TRUMP SPEAKS AT LIBERTY UNIVERSITY
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