Tags: Coronavirus | Donald Trump | trump | west point

Trump Speaks to West Point Grads on Navigating 'Turbulent' Times

Trump Speaks to West Point Grads on Navigating 'Turbulent' Times
(Getty  Images)

Saturday, 13 June 2020 11:49 AM

President Donald Trump steered clear of current controversies in remarks to about 1,100 graduating cadets of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Saturday, instead highlighting unity and America’s core values.

“What has historically made America unique is the durability of its institutions against the passions and prejudices of the moment. When times are turbulent,” Trump said. “What matters most is that which is permanent, timeless, enduring and eternal.”

Trump said that the 2020 graduate of the nation’s oldest service academy “have come from the farms and the cities, from states big and small, and from every race, religion, color, and creed.

“But when you entered these grounds, you became part of one team and one family, proudly serving one American nation,” he said, according to advance excerpts released by the White House.

Trump ran through some of the achievements of this year’s class, from football wins to attainment of a Rhodes scholarship by one.

The commencement ceremony, months in the planning, comes even as the backlash to the president’s threat to use active-duty service members to quell domestic political protests continues to roil the Pentagon and coronavirus alters the landscape.

Trump’s appearance at the was meant to signal a return to normalcy after the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, it has retrained attention on his handling of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black Minnesota man who died in police custody.

The president’s remarks weren’t overtly political and didn’t touch on current controversies about Mark Milley’s apology for a Washington photo-op, or efforts to rename military bases that now honor Confederate military leaders.

He did, however, thank all branches of the U.S. military for their help for fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apologized for participating in the walk from the White House to an historic church in Washington earlier this month, which occurred after law enforcement forcibly cleared a largely peaceful protest outside the White House.

“I should not have been there,” Milley said during a taped graduation address to the National Defense University. “My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

Milley’s presence at the June 1 incident, dressed in combat fatigues, has been criticized for giving tacit approval to Trump’s claim that he could use the armed forces against protesters on American soil. The photo-op, quickly spun into a campaign video, came immediately after Trump threatened the use of military force in a Rose Garden address.

Trump said in an interview with Fox News on Thursday that he didn’t see Milley’s apology as significant, and defended the photo-op as a “beautiful picture.”

Trump continues to grapple with how to respond to the deaths of Floyd and other black Americans at the hands of law enforcement, which have sparked protests against police brutality across the U.S.

The president exposed distance between himself and military leaders again this week on the issue, announcing he would block any attempt by the Pentagon to rename U.S. bases honoring Confederate military leaders.

The Pentagon had said Defense Secretary Mark Esper was open to a discussion about such a change. Trump, though, called the bases “part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,” and White House officials said he would veto any legislation mandating the renaming of installations such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina or Fort Hood in Texas.

Trump in his West Point remarks will pay tribute to a black cadet killed in an accident in June 2019, said two people familiar. Christopher Morgan, who died in a military vehicle roll-over during a training exercise, would have graduated today.

Separately, Esper had earlier distanced himself from the church photo-op by saying that he was “not aware” that it was happening. Esper also told reporters that he didn’t support the notion -- repeatedly raised by Trump -- that active-duty troops should be used to control protests in U.S. cities. Esper’s comments prompted consternation within the White House and speculation that Trump could ultimately fire his defense chief.

Esper was not among the dignitaries gathered at West Point on Saturday but was due to make video remarks.

Criticism has been even more vocal from former members of Trump’s administration who served in the military. Trump’s first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, issued a statement last week saying Trump had abused his power by clearing the streets ahead of his church photo-op, and had made “a mockery of our Constitution.” Trump’s former chief of staff, John Kelly, said he agreed with that sentiment and rejected the use of active-duty troops against protesters.

“These are civilian responsibilities,” Kelly said in an interview with Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s former communications director. “We should be very, very careful before we contemplate sending in active duty.”

Trump is also facing criticism over his decision to speak at Saturday’s ceremony, which is being held despite current social-distancing directives in New York that limit graduation gatherings to 150 people.

West Point has said the ceremony will be conducted safely, that cadets -- who were sent home in March as Covid-19 swept through the state -- would have needed to return to campus anyway to gather their belongings.

Graduates have been checked for coronavirus and have been quarantining in groups for two weeks ahead of Saturday’s event. At least 15 returning cadets tested positive.

The graduating class was socially distanced for the ceremony. Family and friends are not present but can watch online.

The White House said precautions were being taken to make sure the ceremony would be safe.

“This upcoming graduation is about these incredible cadets and their amazing accomplishments, and as the Commander-in-Chief, President Trump wants to celebrate that and thank them for their service to our country,” spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

© Copyright 2021 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

President Donald Trump steered clear of current controversies in remarks to about 1,100 graduating cadets of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Saturday, instead highlighting unity and America's core values."What has historically made America unique is the...
trump, west point
Saturday, 13 June 2020 11:49 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved