President Donald Trump will deliver the Air Force Academy’s graduation speech on May 30, the White House confirmed Thursday.
Trump bumped expected speaker Vice President Mike Pence from the podium for the ceremony in Falcon Stadium, where about 1,000 seniors will pin on the rank of 2nd lieutenant. It will be Trump’s first stop in Colorado Springs since his visit during the 2016 presidential campaign.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the trip Thursday, to a group of children gathered there for “take your child to work” day.
“The president loves our military,” she said.
The academy graduation, which draws as many as 30,000 spectators when the president is the speaker, will include an air show by the Air Force Thunderbirds and feature a galaxy of generals.
The academy is expected to announce how tickets can be obtained in the days before the ceremony.
Typically, the president addresses graduating classes at military academies every four years in a rotation that includes the vice president, secretary of defense and secretary of each service.
Then Defense Secretary Jim Mattis addressed the academy’s Class of 2018.
Presidential speeches at the academy have tied up traffic along Interstate 25 amid tight security in the past. Those attending the graduation can expect airport-like screening entering the stadium.
Known for his flamboyance and off-the-cuff remarks, Trump has shown he sticks to the script in remarks at service academies.
In commencement remarks to graduates of the Naval Academy in Maryland last year, Trump reminded the midshipmen that America’s military power makes the nation a global force for good.
“We know the truth, will speak the truth, and defend that truth,” Trump said in that May 25 speech. “America is the greatest fighting force for peace, justice, and freedom in the history of the world.”
The Air Force Academy has played host to every president since John F. Kennedy.
Barack Obama addressed the cadets twice during his two terms as president. So did George W. Bush, who started a tradition of shaking every cadet’s hand during the rites. Bush also was known for giving hugs, high-fives and even chest bumps to cadets during his graduation appearances.
Some presidents have used the academy’s podium to announce new plans or programs. Kennedy announced America’s pursuit of a supersonic jetliner during an academy speech.
Ronald Reagan pushed his proposed “Star Wars” missile defense program during an academy speech in 1984.
Richard Nixon used his 1969 speech to call out critics of the Vietnam War.
“It is open season on the armed forces,” Nixon said. “Military programs are ridiculed as needless if not deliberate waste. The military profession is derided in some of the so-called best circles of America.”
Trump’s remarks haven’t been written, but addressing his push for a separate Space Force is a safe bet.
Colorado Springs is home to the bulk of the military’s space troops and is in the running to house the new U.S. Space Command, which would oversee all military efforts in space.
Trump’s enthusiasm for space is something the White House hasn’t seen since Reagan. Military leaders have praised his boosted space budgets, but lawmakers have yet to sign off on making space a separate military service, with some leading Democrats voicing opposition.
© 2019 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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