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Trump Honors Graduating West Point Cadets

June 13, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

President Donald J. Trump told the graduating class of U.S. Military Academy cadets that they are the embodiment of duty, honor and country.

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He said they could have gone to any top-ranked university but instead chose to devote their lives to the defense of America.

"The survival of America and the endurance of civilization itself depends on the men and women just like each of you," he said.

The commencement ceremony today took place at the USMA, West Point, New York, where 1,107 cadets assembled on the parade field known as the Plain. This marked Trump's first visit to West Point and his first time as a commencement speaker there.

Cadets march out onto a parade field.
Long Gray Line
Cadets march out onto the parade field at the beginning of the U.S. Military Academy's Class of 2020 graduation at West Point, N.Y., June 13, 2020.
Photo By: Brandon OConnor, Army
VIRIN: 200613-A-QG670-1051

"This premier military academy produces only the best of the best, the strongest of the strong and the bravest of the brave. West Point is a universal symbol of American gallantry, loyalty, devotion, discipline and great skill," he said.

Trump detailed a number of wars and generals from West Point who led their forces to victory.

"I have no doubt that the young men and women before me today, will add your names to this eternal chronicle of American heroes," he mentioned. "You will go forth from this place, endeared by your countrymen, dreaded by your enemies and respected by all throughout the world. Someday generations of future West Point cadets will study your legacy. They will know your deeds. They will celebrate your triumphs and they will proudly follow your example."

Trump noted that the graduating cadets come from every state, race, religion and ethnicity, adding that "when you entered these grounds, you became one part of one team, one family, proudly serving one great American nation. You became brothers and sisters pledging allegiance to the same timeless principles, joined together in a common mission, to protect our country, to defend our people and to carry on the traditions of freedom, equality and liberty that so many gave their lives to secure."

Cadets stand in formation as an American flag flutters above them.
Graduation Day
Cadets stand in formation during the U.S. Military Academy's Class of 2020 graduation at West Point, N.Y., June 13, 2020.
Photo By: Brandon OConnor, Army
VIRIN: 200613-A-QG670-1060

The president gazed on an empty seat on the Plain, which had a portrait of C.J. Morgan on it. Morgan was a cadet who died in an accident last year. "We are deeply moved to be joined by his father," he said. "We will carry C.J.'s blessed memory in our hearts forever."

Trump also noted that America will celebrate the 245th birthday of the Army tomorrow.

The president extended his thanks to those attending, including Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville; Assistant Secretary of the Army Casey Wardynski; Army Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, superintendent of the USMA; Brig. Gen. Cindy Jebb, Dean of the academic board, USMA; Army Brig. Gen. Curtis A. Buzzard, commandant of the U.S. Corps of Cadets; Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth L. Killingsworth, CSM of the U.S. Corps of Cadets; and, Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, CSM, USMA.

Williams, who also spoke, noting the absence of families and friends to cheer on the graduates, but said they are watching the ceremony being broadcast and are with them in spirit.

Cadets throw their hats in the air as a group of helicopters fly above them.
Hat Toss
Cadets throw their hats in the air during the U.S. Military Academy's Class of 2020 graduation at West Point, N.Y., June 13, 2020.
Photo By: Brandon OConnor, Army
VIRIN: 200613-A-QG670-1114

He also thanked the USMA class of 1970 for their mentorship of the graduating cadets.

Some Interesting Facts

  • Besides representing all 50 states, there were also graduating cadets from 12 countries: Bosnia, Herzegovina, Georgia, Honduras, South Korea, Kosovo, Moldova, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Tanzania.
  • The graduating class has 38 scholarship recipients to include Rhodes, Fulbright, Marshall, Schwarzman and Truman.    
  • The commencement ceremony on the Plain marks the second time it was ever held there, the other being in 1944.
  • After the size of the corps doubled in the 1960s, the commencement ceremony was held every year at Michie Stadium except in 1977; before being held at Michie Stadium, smaller ceremonies were held at Gillis Fieldhouse and Trophy Point.
  • Today marks the 40th anniversary of the first women graduating in 1980.