Trump praises cadets in commencement address at West Point

President Trump delivered the commencement address to graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Saturday morning. Mr. Trump’s decision to appear at the graduation ceremony stirred some controversy, as students are returning to the West Point campus for the ceremony after the school was closedΒ over concerns about the coronavirus.

The academy is located about an hour’s drive north of New York City, which has been the epicenter of the pandemic. All West Point students have been home since spring break in March, and only those who are graduating are returning for the ceremony.

Mr. Trump’s speech focused on congratulating the graduates and honoring the United States Army, which was established 245 years ago tomorrow. The president briefly addressed the coronavirus pandemic, saying the virus “came to our shores from a distant land called China.”

“We will vanquish the virus. We will extinguish this plague,” Mr. Trump said.

He also praised the cadets for choosing to join the armed forces.

“You came to West Point because you know the truth: America is the greatest country in human history. And the United States military is the greatest force for peace and justice the world has ever known,” Mr. Trump said.Β 

President Donald Trump speaks to over 1,110 cadets in the Class of 2020 at a commencement ceremony on the parade field, at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., Saturday, June 13, 2020.

Alex Brandon / AP

The president also touted his administration’s “colossal rebuilding of the American armed forces,” noting that over $2 trillion had been invested in the military during his tenure.

Mr. Trump’s speech came amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice, and escalating tensions between the president and the military. Mr. Trump said this week he would refuse to consider renaming Army bases named after Confederate officials, after the Pentagon said it was willing to discuss it.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said this week he regretted participating in a photo opportunity with the president in front of a damaged historic church earlier this month. The photo op took place after law enforcement officials cleared peaceful protesters from the area using tear gas and rubber bullets. CBS News has confirmed that Milley’s words took the White House by surprise.

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