Trump says next gen leaders among Liberty grads

President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Trump in an apparent warning to his fired FBI director said Friday

President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Trump in an apparent warning to his fired FBI director said Friday

President Trump told the crowd he was thrilled to be back at Liberty University, with Trump claiming there was no place in the world he would rather give his first commencement address as president other than at Liberty University.

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Trump kept to a largely upbeat message during the roughly 30-minute speech, never mentioning his stunning decision this past week to remove James Comey as Federal Bureau of Investigation director. He never mentioned the latest controversy roiling his administration, his firing of FBI Director James Comey.

FILE - In this May 4, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington.

"There may very well be a president or two in our midst", Trump said. The leader of the Christian school, Jerry Falwell Jr., was among Trump's earliest and most vocal supporters.

"We don't need a lecture from Washington on how to lead our lives", Trump told the packed stadium of thousands at the nation's largest Christian college, saying that he's seen "how the system is broken" in D.C. and populated by individuals "who think they know everything".

"A small group of failed voices, who think they know everything, and understand everyone, want to tell everybody else how to live and what to do and how to think", he continued.

Trump's address at Liberty broke a long tradition of newly elected presidents delivering their first in-office commencement speeches at the University of Notre Dame; Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter all spoke at that in school during their first year as president. Trump said Comey is a "showboat" and "grandstander" who was sacked because he wasn't doing a good job.

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"I've noticed a new hope and new optimism sweeping this country", Falwell said, calling on "our president's enemies" in the media and political establishment to "practice the tolerance they so often preach".

He also attributed his presidency to God and likened graduation to his being elected - adding that both scenarios "would really require major help from God".

"As long as you have pride in your beliefs, courage in your convictions, and faith in your God, then you will not fail", he said to applause.

Speaking before what the Christian university estimated were 50,000 graduates, Trump cast criticisms of his actions as a sign that he was doing honorable work in remarks that touched upon religion but were not particularly imbued with religious overtones.

He says outsiders "change the world and make a real and lasting difference".

A recent Pew Research Center survey marking Trump's first 100 days in office, a milestone reached on April 29, found three-quarters of white evangelicals approved of his performance as president while just 39 per cent of the general public held the same view.

"Be totally unafraid to challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures", he said, adding with a smile: "Does that sound familiar, by the way?"

Mr. Trump went on the question the Liberty University students about challenging accepted wisdom and taking on established systems.

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    Trump urged the graduates to "embrace the label" of being an outsider and to not "swim downstream so easily with the current". Liberty graduates more than 18,000 students this year; about 6,000 of them attended Saturday's ceremony.

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