Friday, 22 February, 2019

Trump to Liberty U grads: Relish being an 'outsider'

Trump urges grads to draw lessons from his outsider status Alex Wong Getty Images President Donald Trump delivers keynote address during the commencement at Liberty University
Francis Olson | 15 May, 2017, 00:37

Trump has admitted that Comey's investigation into Russian connections to Trump's inner circle was a factor in his decision to fire the FBI director.

President Donald Trump, center, is presented an Honorary Degree by Ronald E. Hawkins, right, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, before giving the commencement address for the Class of 2017 at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., Saturday, May 13, 2017.

"As long as I am your president no one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith or from preaching what's in your heart", said Trump, an occasional church-goer.

"The future belongs to the dreamers, not to the critics", he said.

Trump's visit to the Lynchburg, Virginia, school marks his first extended public appearance since his Tuesday firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating Russia's role in last year's US presidential election and possible connections between Trump's campaign and the Russian government.

Trump lashed out at Comey on Friday, tweeting that Comey "better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" Trump said Comey is a "showboat" and "grandstander" who was sacked because he wasn't doing a good job. "Because it's the outsiders who change the world and who make a real and lasting difference".

Trump is delivering his first commencement speech as president at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. The crowd of more than 50,000, the largest the university has ever seen at a commencement, as the president noted, gave him a standing ovation and then briefly chanted: "USA! USA!"

"They've been vetted over their lifetime essentially", he said. In fact, from our very beginnings, we aspired to be for evangelical young people what Notre Dame is for Catholic young people. "And that's what we want for the Federal Bureau of Investigation".

In addition to bringing national attention to Liberty, Trump reiterated his dedication to protecting the rights of Christians, saying that "America is better when people put their faith into action". And President Jerry Falwell Jr. was one of the first leading white evangelicals to endorse Trump back in January 2016 when a lot of observers were still predicting that Trump would never win over evangelicals, let alone win the primary, in a Republican primary, of course, and the general election. He provided critical validation for the twice-divorced NY billionaire among a potentially skeptical but critically important demographic in the Republican primary: evangelical voters.

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And he tells graduates that he's standing before them as the country's leader.

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.

In his first commencement address as president, Donald Trump on Saturday drew a parallel between what he faces as a political outsider in Washington and what he said the Christian graduates of Liberty University can expect to encounter in a secular world. He was presented with an honorary doctorate of laws.

In his speech, Trump jokingly nodded to the hard odds he'd once faced. "USA!" Trump is the second sitting president to deliver a commencement address at Liberty; George H.W. Bush spoke in 1990.

Trump is scheduled to address graduates of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, on Wednesday.

The address, the White House said, was meant to project "encouragement" and "optimism" to graduates.

"Relish the opportunity to be an outsider", he continued. But he said it's "early to say" what to make of Trump's unconventional presidency.

"We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell's endorsement and are exhausted of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history", the group's statement read.


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