Donald Trump delivered his first commencement address as President of the United States to the Liberty University graduating class of 2017. The President wore a business suit during his talk instead of the customary academic robe.
During his address, the President compared the evangelical Christian university's growth with his won rise to power in the 2016 election. Trump encouraged graduates to sustain their religious beliefs and to fight for the rights of religious organizations, citing a recent executive order intended to weaken the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt religious organizations from endorsing political candidates.
Founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell, Liberty is now led by the clergyman's son, Jerry Falwell Jr. Trump's speech included a tribute to the late Falwell, whose life, he said, was proof that faith can change the world.
The President told graduates that the success of his campaign and of their university showed that they should follow their dreams, however unlikely. He encouraged graduates to fight for their beliefs and to accept the word "impossible" as motivation. "Don't let others tell you what to believe," he said, "especially when you're convinced you are right." Trump promised that his administration would always stand up for the rights of people who wished to praise God.
“America is better when people put their faith into action,” he said. “As long as I am President, no one is going to stop you from practicing your faith or preaching what’s in your heart.”
The address was attended by about 50,000 people in the university's Williams Stadium.