Donald Trump delivered his first commencement speech as president Saturday morning at Liberty University.
Speaking at the Jerry Falwell-founded Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, Trump promised the Class of 2017 that, “As long as I am your president, no one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith.”
“America has always been the land of dreams because America is a nation of true believers,” Trump said. “When the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, they prayed. When the founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, they invoked our creator four times. Because in America, we don’t worship government, we worship God.”
Trump also lashed out at his critics and criticized how “broken” the system is in Washington, D.C.
“The fact is, no one has achieved anything significant without a chorus of critics standing on the sidelines explaining why it can’t be done,” Trump said. “Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic… The future belongs to the people who follow their heart no matter what the critics say because they truly believe in their vision.”
Trump added, “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’s address at Liberty broke a long tradition of newly elected presidents delivering their first in-office commencement speeches at the University of Notre Dame; Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter all spoke at that Indiana school during their first year as president. This year, Vice President Mike Pence, and not Trump, will instead speak at Notre Dame’s graduation.
Trump previously spoke at Liberty University while on the campaign trail in January 2016, a speech where the then-Republican frontrunner referred to the New Testament book “Two Corinthians,” even though it’s commonly referred to as “Second Corinthians.”
Despite the gaffe, Liberty’s chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. has been among Trump’s most ardent allies throughout the mogul’s path to the White House.
“I do believe Trump is a good father, is generous to those in need, and is an ethical and honest businessman,” Falwell Jr. wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in January 2016. “I have gotten to know him well over the last few years and have come to admire him for those traits.”