President Donald Trump will deliver the commencement speech to Liberty University graduates this year, according to statements by the White House and the university. This is the first time a sitting president has delivered the keynote address since George H.W. Bush in 1990.
Liberty University is a private, non-profit Christian university associated with Southern Baptists. The current president is the son of the university’s founder, Jerry Falwell, who was well-known in his lifetime as a pastor, televangelist, and conservative figure.
Following a formal announcement from the White House of President Trump’s participation, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell provided more details about the upcoming event.
“It is a tremendous honor and privilege for any university to host a sitting U.S. President, and we are incredibly grateful to have President Trump be a part of this historic day.”
He went on to explain about Liberty University’s commencement speakers and to describe President Trump in context for Liberty University students.
“A man who has succeeded in business and in politics, defying conventional wisdom to become the 45th President of the United States as a champion of the average American citizen, including many who felt forgotten and neglected by the establishment.”
Trump was regarded as the anti-establishment candidate. Various sources have analyzed his appeal to working class Americans and small-business owners, who felt the pinch of an economy struggling with increased social pressure. The factors and issues that led to a Trump victory are complex but have not been widely reported on as they are, in many ways, not considered polite or politically correct to talk about. Some prominent figures, like Senator Bernie Sanders, have attempted to address this fact. Liberty University included in their announcement that President Trump will be the keynote speaker a statement about it as well.
“Liberty is proud to be a place where academic freedom and free expression of all viewpoints is a priority over political correctness.”
Despite this mission statement, it is unknown at this time if Liberty University will find itself targeted by student protests over President Trump’s visit. The president has been the subject of multiple protests, including the Women’s March, while pro-Trump rallies in liberal areas like Berkeley, California, turned violent.
However, Liberty University, a Christian Southern Baptist school, is ideologically much different from UC Berkeley, and President Trump spoke there last year without any major upset to the community.
President Trump spoke exclusively with CBN News, a Christian outlet, about agreeing to speak to the graduates.
“I look forward to speaking to this amazing group of students on such a momentous occasion. Our children truly are the future and I look forward to celebrating the success of this graduating class as well as sharing lessons as they embark on their next chapter full of hope, faith, optimism, and a passion for life.”
The exclusive interview with CBN went into more detail on Trump’s appeal to evangelicals. An estimated 80 percent of Evangelical Christians support Trump and more evangelicals voted for Trump than for any other candidate. The report went into further detail on the concepts Falwell introduced when he made the statement about President Trump speaking to the Liberty University students.
“There seems to be a big disconnect between what the mainstream media is reporting and what evangelicals think of the job Trump is doing. The headlines always report turmoil or ‘hair on fire’ scenarios. But the evangelicals who supported Trump don’t see it that way.”
Trump spoke at Liberty University in 2012 and 2016, but this is the first time a sitting president has spoken at the university in nearly 30 years. The president and Jerry Falwell consider each other family friends.
[Featured Image by Steve Helber/AP Images]