"In America we don't worship government, we worship God", Mr. Trump said, delivering a commencement address in Lynchburg, Virginia, at what is considered the largest Christian university in the world. But while the president's speech was greeted with applause Saturday, not all Liberty University students were keen to have Trump as their commencement speaker. "In my short time in Washington, I've seen first-hand how the system is broken", he said.
"Be totally unafraid to challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures", he said, adding, "Does that sound familiar, by the way?"
The speech was Trump's first public appearance outside the White House since Comey's firing on Tuesday.
Instead of personal defenses, Trump came to Liberty's campus armed with a message of thanks for those evangelicals whose votes helped him prove the naysayers wrong in November - "Boy did you come out and vote", he said - and imparted on the graduates some tips for the future that could have come from Trump's own political playbook.
"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. In that speech, Trump promised: "We're going to protect Christianity, and I can say that".
President Donald Trump with Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., who praised the former reality TV personality for having a tendency to "speak his mind" when he endorsed him in 2016.
"Even that is possible", Trump told reporters when asked whether he could announce his nominee by Friday, when he is scheduled to leave for the Mideast and Europe. "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 letter reads.More news: Gunman in OH nursing home shooting had violent record
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"America is better when people put their faith into action", Trump continued. "We have to set records, we have no choice".
In his speech, Trump jokingly nodded to the hard odds he'd once faced.
But the president received a warm reception on Saturday from the roughly 50,000 commencement attendees - a record crowd for the university, he proudly declared.
"As long as I'm president, nobody will stop you from practicing your faith", said Mr. Trump. "I said I was going to do it and Jerry, I did it", Trump said referring to Falwell and the Johnson Amendment order. "It is truly a testament to this university and the values that you embrace that your graduating class includes so many patriots who have served our country in uniform".
"The success of your athletic program - arriving on the big stage - should be a reminder to every new graduate of just what you can achieve when you start small, pursue a big vision, and never, ever quit - you never quit", Trump said.
Keep in mind "the most for a Republican candidate since George H.W. Bush" means he literally bested only one president: George W. Bush.
Falwell said he's pleased with Trump's performance so far. "What will future Americans say we did in our brief time here on Earth?"