Liberty University announced on Wednesday that its commencement in May would feature President Trump as the keynote speaker, making him the first sitting president to play that role at the Christian university since George H.W. Bush, in 1990.
The invitation from Liberty’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., may not be a surprise given his associations with the U.S. president. Some students protested Mr. Falwell’s endorsement of Mr. Trump during last year’s campaign. In January, President Trump asked him to head a new task force to recommend changes in the Department of Education’s policies and procedures.
“It is a tremendous honor and privilege for any university to host a sitting U.S. president, and we are incredibly grateful to have President Trump be a part of this historic day,” Mr. Falwell said in a statement.
At the University of Notre Dame, where six presidents dating to Dwight D. Eisenhower have spoken at commencements, including four during their first year in office, an invitation was extended this year instead to Vice President Mike Pence. Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, has criticized Mr. Trump, saying his executive order banning travelers from some Muslim-majority countries would “demean our nation.”
President Trump told CBN News: “I look forward to speaking to this amazing group of students on such a momentous occasion. Our children truly are the future, and I look forward to celebrating the success of this graduating class as well as sharing lessons as they embark on their next chapter full of hope, faith, optimism, and a passion for life.”
Correction (3/22/2017, 6:22 p.m.): This post originally stated incorrectly that six previous U.S. presidents spoke at Notre Dame during their first year in office. Only four of the six did so; the other two spoke during their final year in office. The post has been updated to reflect this correction.