U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to West Point graduating cadets during commencement ceremonies at Plain Parade Field at the United States Military Academy on June 13, 2020 in West Point, New York.
WEST POINT, N.Y. — In his first graduation address to the cadets of the United States Military Academy, President Donald Trump touted the colossal defense budget and the creation of the U.S. Space Force while avoiding the recent debate over the administration’s politicization of troops.
“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,” Trump told the more than 1,100 seated cadets at the academy’s historic parade field.
“As commander-in-chief, I never forget for one instant the immense sacrifices we ask of those who wear the nation’s uniform,” he said during the Saturday ceremony, which was altered for social distancing measures. “What has historically made America unique is the durability of its institutions against the passions and prejudices of the moment,” he added.
Trump’s speech to the Army’s new second lieutenants at an in-person ceremony at West Point, comes at a particularly tumultuous time. More than 114,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus pandemic, double-digit unemployment plagues the nation, top defense officials face criticism for a political photo-op and widespread protests over police brutality have swept the country.
“When times are turbulent, when the road is rough, what matters most is that which is permanent, timeless, enduring and eternal,” Trump said, appearing to acknowledge the palpable tensions of the past two weeks.
Trump has faced criticism for his handling of the protests sparked by the death last month of George Floyd at the hands of police. The unarmed black man died after a white Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. The officer has been charged with second-degree murder.
The president took a moment during the ceremony to recognize the National Guard and its efforts of “ensuring peace, safety and the constitutional rule of law on our streets.”
Trump’s address follows an extraordinary letter to the U.S. Military Academy’s graduating class penned by a coalition of several hundred West Point alumni.
“Sadly, the government has threatened to use the Army in which you serve as a weapon against fellow Americans engaging in these legitimate protests. Worse, military leaders, who took the same oath you take today, have participated in politically charged events,” some alumni wrote in a letter posted on Medium.
“The oath taken by those who choose to serve in America’s military is aspirational. We pledge service to no monarch; no government; no political party; no tyrant,” the group wrote, adding that they were “concerned that fellow graduates serving in senior-level, public positions are failing to uphold…
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