Trump at Liberty: ‘Never, Ever Give Up’
"In America, we don't worship government, we worship God."
President Trump came, he saw, he connected. He also tossed the Secret Service and program organizers a curve with an act of kindness. Such was Donald Trump’s experience Saturday at Liberty University.
This was Trump’s first commencement address as President. For generations now, the tradition has been for a new President to deliver his first commencement at Notre Dame. But once again Trump bucked tradition, choosing instead to speak at the large evangelical university in Lynchburg, Va.
“Never Give Up”
Before a stadium crowd of 50,000, the President told Liberty’s football-field full of graduates, “If I give you one message to hold in your hearts today, it’s this. Never, ever give up.”
There will be times in your life you’ll want to quit, you’ll want to go home, you’ll want to go home perhaps to that wonderful mother that’s sitting back there watching you and say, ‘Mom, I can’t do it. I can’t do it.’ Just never quit. Go back home and tell mom, dad, I can do it, I can do it. I will do it, you’re going to be successful.
He returned to the theme repeatedly. “Never quit,” he said, “Never stop fighting for the people.” “Treat the word ‘impossible’ as nothing more than motivation.”
“In America, we don’t worship government, we worship God.” President Donald Trump, Liberty University Commencement Address
He singled out Liberty CFO George Rogers, who was imprisoned and tortured by the Japanese during World War Two. Rogers was not supposed to live past the age of 40. He’s now 98.
Former Buffalo Bill quarterback Jim Kelly was asked to stand. Kelly was not only a beast on the football field, shrugging off 320-pound tacklers, but he’s now defeated cancer twice. His daughter Erin graduated from Liberty Saturday.
“Do What You Love”
Trump, who has now seen success in real estate, reality TV, publishing and now politics, had another message for graduates: “You have to do what you love.”
I’ve seen so many people, they’re forced through lots of reasons, sometimes including family, to go down a path that they don’t want to go down, to go down a path that leads them to something that they don’t love, that they don’t enjoy. You have to do what you love, or you most likely won’t be very successful at it. So do what you love.
He described what he’s found in Washington DC:
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.
The President urged students to “relish the opportunity to be an outsider.” Embrace that label “because it’s the outsiders who change the world and who make a real and lasting difference.” There will be naysayers.
The fact is no one has ever achieved anything significant without a chorus of critics standing on the sidelines explaining why it can’t be done. Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic, because they’re people that can’t get the job done.
And the president spoke of faith.
On Matters of Faith and Country
There were no flubs like his infamous “Two Corinthians” comment (during earlier appearance at Liberty). He did not try to throw religious jargon at the Christian students. Instead, he spoke of the role of faith in America and his role in protecting the faithful. “In America, we don’t worship government,” he said, “we worship God.”
America has always been the land of dreams because America is a nation of true believers. 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. That is why our elected officials put their hands on the Bible and say, ‘So help me God,’ as they take the oath of office. It is why our currency proudly declares, ‘In God we trust,’ and it’s why we proudly proclaim that we are one nation under God every time we say the pledge of allegiance.
“America is better off when people put their faith in action,” he said, urging students to carry out their Christian work whether in ministry or business.
As long as you remember what you learned here at Liberty, as long as you have pride in your beliefs, courage in your convictions and faith in your God, you will not fail.
He also talked about the executive order on religious liberty, and made this vow to graduates: “As long as I am president no one is going to stop you from practicing your faith or sharing your heart.”
Trump Does Trump
The President showed glimpses of his own heart and humor during the commencement. He delivered a crowd-pleasing comic riff on Liberty University’s football program being granted FBS status. This means the Flames will be facing long-time national powerhouses like Auburn and Virginia Tech next season. He joked that the scores might not be pretty, and it might be a few years before he’d want to watch a Liberty Flames game.
Still, it’s something Trump did after the network cameras likely turned off that said as much about the man as anything in the speech. Earlier in the program Liberty’s LU Praise gospel group had been set to perform. In fact, they were going to do a number they had performed at the Inaugural. Unfortunately, thanks to a computer glitch, there was no music. Mindful of the President’s tight schedule, the program moved on.
After the President’s speech and events were nearing their end, Liberty President Jerry Falwell, Jr. had a surprise. Trump was insisting LU Praise be given its chance to sing. The joyful, predominately black choir kicked in: “We’ve Come This Far By Faith.” Falwell — and the Secret Service — were in for another surprise. Trump grabbed Falwell, and headed down the steps to join the choir on the field. The President cheered them on as their voices soared through the stadium. When they finished, he offered handshakes and posed for several spontaneous photos.
Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s what you do.