WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will deliver the May commencement address at Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world announced Wednesday.
Trump, who spoke at the school days before the Iowa caucuses in January 2016, will become the first sitting US president since George H.W. Bush to speak at a Liberty University commencement.
“I look forward to speaking to this amazing group of students on such a momentous occasion,” Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network. Trump added that he looked forward to “celebrating the success of this graduating class as well as sharing lessons as they embark on their next chapter full of hope, faith, optimism and a passion for life.”
The trip to Liberty University will reunite Trump with one of his most vocal evangelical conservative surrogates, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell.
“It is a tremendous honor and privilege for any university to host a sitting US President, and we are incredibly grateful to have President Trump be a part of this historic day,” Falwell said. “This May, Liberty students will have the honor of hearing from a man who has succeeded in business and in politics, defying conventional wisdom to become the 45th President of the United States.”
Trump, a Presbyterian, made Liberty University last year the venue for his most concerted pitch to evangelical Christian voters, some of whom had disavowed his campaign and backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2016 GOP primary.
“Christianity, it’s under siege,” Trump had said. “We’re going to protect Christianity. I don’t have to be politically correct.”
Trump’s lack of biblical lingo drew snickers from the crowd, too.
“Two Corinthians, 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame,” Trump had said, describing a biblical verse. The correct terminology is “Second Corinthians.”
Falwell, the son of famed televangelist Jerry Falwell, endorsed Trump shortly after the speech at Liberty University, touting the Republican candidate as a “successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again.”
Falwell held tight to Trump, even after video emerged of Trump describing his own sexual aggressive behavior toward women.
“We’re all sinners, every one of us. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t,” Falwell told WABC Radio in New York City, arguing that the release of the video was a “planned … conspiracy among the establishment Republicans who’ve known about it for weeks and who tried to time it to do the maximum damage to Donald Trump.”
Falwell’s loyalty was rewarded, too.
Len Stevens, the Liberty University spokesman, told CNN in February that Falwell would lead an education task force put together by Trump, where the evangelical leader would push to stop regulations coming out of the Education Department, especially those that apply to colleges and universities.
Liberty University regularly hosts political speakers. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush spoke ahead of the 2016 campaign. Sen. John McCain spoke in 2006 and Ronald Reagan addressed the school in 1980.
And amid the 2012 presidential election, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spoke at the school’s commencement. Romney’s invite caused a stir at the university because some evangelical Christians consider Mormonism, Romney’s faith, to be a cult.