14 May, 2017
President Trump on Saturday in his first commencement speech since taking office blasted "a small group of failed voices" in Washington, urging graduates to not compromise their personal beliefs.
It was the only the second time a sitting USA president had spoken at the school's commencement, said Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. before Trump gave his address. The school has prepared for a "Trump bump" in attendance, spending $200,000 to almost double the stadium's seating capacity to 36,000. At another, he told students and parents at the conservative religious school that "nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic".
"That is possible", Trump said. "But the future belongs to the dreamers, not to the critics".
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 USA presidential election and possible connections between Trump's campaign and the Russian government.
Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. invited Trump to town for graduation back in December, and his admiration has only grown during the early months of the Trump administration, recently telling Fox News that "evangelicals have found their dream President". When the billionaire spoke at the university a week before Falwell extended his endorsement, students laughed when Trump quoted a passage from "Two Corinthians".
Mr Fallwell's father, Jerry Fallwell Sr., was a famous televangelist and founded the university in Lynchburg, Virginia to serve the American evangelical community.
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"It is so disrespectful, these universities, many elitist universities", said Falwell.
Trump, who has bragged about committing adultery and is on his third marriage, has never been a particularly devout Christian. "I am so proud as your president to have helped you along over the past short period of time".
"But you aren't going to let other people tell you what you believe - especially when you know you are right", Trump told Liberty graduates. "And it is why we proudly proclaim that we are one nation, under God, every time we say the Pledge of Allegiance".
University 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.
"I'd love to hear him talk to the students about what he plans to do for them to make it a better job market, to make the United States a better place for them to raise their families", Falwell told The Washington Post.
"Treat the word "impossible" as nothing more than motivation".
Falwell defended Donald Trump throughout the presidential campaign, including when a leaked tape showed Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. Mr. Trump also told Liberty University grads that it was okay to be an outsider and to embrace that label, claiming that "we're doing very, very well... against the tide of barbarity", claiming there would be more news coming from generals in the next week.