In his first commencement address as president, Donald Trump on Saturday drew a parallel between what he faces as a political outsider in Washington and what he said the Christian graduates of Liberty University can expect to encounter in a secular world.
"Be totally unafraid to challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures," Trump said. "Does that sound familiar, by the way?"
"Relish the opportunity to be an outsider," he continued. "Embrace that label. Being an outsider is fine. Embrace the label, because it’s the outsiders who change the world and who make a real and lasting difference. The more that a broken system tells you that you’re wrong, the more certain you should be that you must keep pushing ahead."
Trump's address was short on scripture but cast the president as a defender of the Christian faith — a mantle he assumed throughout the campaign.
"In America, we don’t worship government," Trump declared at one point. "We worship God."
A president who often ad-libs read from a teleprompter Saturday and stayed mostly on script. And he did not mention the big news of the week — his firing of James B. Comey as FBI director.
Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty University president and evangelical icon, endorsed Trump in January 2016, calling him "a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again."
Falwell's backing boosted Trump's previously sparse evangelical bona fides and was particularly significant because many political observers had assumed that Falwell would support Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who had launched his campaign at Liberty 10 months earlier.