Donald Trump’s commencement speech during the West Point graduation ceremony had several protesters lined up outside.
Despite the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, 1000 cadets graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point gathered at the university on June 13 to hear President Donald Trump give their commencement address. The socially distanced, in-person ceremony for the US Army’s newest second lieutenants marks Trump’s first graduation address at West Point. Trump, for the most part, stuck to the script while he congratulated the new class on their remarkable achievement.
Going without a protective face mask in front of the graduates and their families, Trump, 73, said, “There is no place on earth I would rather be right here with all of you. It’s a great honor.” Trump also briefly brought up COVID-19 which he once again directly blamed China for starting. “I want to take this opportunity to all members of America’s armed forces and every branch, active duty, national guard and reserve who stepped forward to help battle the invisible enemy, the new virus, that came to our shores from a distant land called China. We will vanquish the virus. We will extinguish this plague.”
Trump also seemingly spoke about the worldwide protests that have been happening since George Floyd‘s death in late May. It is something he and his team have been widely criticized for regarding their response to the matter. “What has made America unique is the durability of its institutions against the passions and prejudices of the moment. When times are turbulent, when the road is rough, what matters most is that which is permanent, timeless, enduring and eternal.’’ Regardless of his words tons of people were protesting outside the graduation ceremony and chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” over and over again.
— Frank Becerra (@frankbecerrajr) June 13, 2020
West Point’s commencement was an in-person ceremony, despite the fact that the academy shut down in March after at least 15 cadets from the Class of 2020 tested positive for COVID-19. In contrast, the US Naval Academy and the US Coast Guard Academy held virtual graduation ceremonies in May, featuring recorded commencement speeches. The ceremony comes in direct defiance of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s coronavirus policy, which prohibits gatherings of over 10 people to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Trump, of course, has been pushing against social distancing rules in order to revive the economy, despite the dangers. As of June 12, over two million Americans have tested positive for coronavirus; over 100,000 have died with the disease. Trump has refused to wear a face mask, going against CDC recommendations for the public. West Point is located roughly 50 miles away from New York City, which remains the location with the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.