Vice President Mike Pence delivered a commencement address to nearly 1,000 graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy on Saturday despite stay-at-home orders in much of the country to control coronavirus spread.
Pence announced his decision to travel to Colorado earlier this week after first planning to address the graduating cadets by video message. He told graduates that tough times bring Americans together.
The engagement marked the first time either Pence or President Donald Trump had left Washington since the COVID-19 pandemic led governors to close businesses and urge their residents to stay home.
Trump traveled to Norfolk, Va., on March 28 to send off the USNS Comfort before the hospital ship headed to the New York, the epicenter of U.S. pandemic, to provide support.
The president on Thursday unveiled a three-phase plan to open up the economy, offering governors the opportunity to reopen businesses in their states by May 1 or earlier. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state would remain under a lockdown until at least May 15.
Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, touched on the COVID-19 pandemic in his remarks. He noted that thousands of Americans have contracted and perished from the virus but underlined the resiliency and strength of the American people.
“As each of you has shown in your time here, and as the American people always show in challenging times, when hardship comes, Americans come together,” Pence said. “We rise to the challenge.”
Officials on hand included Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett.
At a time when gatherings of more than a few people are banned or discouraged in many states, the Air Force Academy took a variety of precautions for the annual event.
That included holding the ceremony without friends or family, who’ll be able to watch via live-stream, according to the Academy’s superintendent, Lt. General Jay Silveria. The graduates followed current social distancing practices, including remaining at least 6 feet apart.
©2020 Bloomberg News
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.