- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2017

When President Trump steps out on the big stage to deliver the commencement speech at Liberty University on Saturday, he will face 18,000 graduates. They portend to be a friendly, faith-minded and patriotic crowd; their graduation ensembles include a traditional gown in navy blue — plus red, white and blue scarfs at the neck.

The Liberty University student body itself is Trump-friendly. During the 2016 election, nearly 3,000 students voted for Mr. Trump; Democratic rival Hillary Clinton took 140.

The campus also expects a record-breaking crowd; 40,000 people is typical for a Liberty graduation. On Saturday, the number is likely to go higher. Security will be paramount for the mid-morning event. Commencement planners, however, were so eager to accommodate parents, well-wishers and Trump fans that they demolished locker rooms at one end of the commencement site at Walker Stadium in order to create an additional 8,000 seats.

To accommodate the throng, gates will open at 6 a.m. The campus will livestream the event beginning at 10 a.m. EDT from Liberty.edu.  C-SPAN will also cover it.

Mr. Trump was last on campus in the early months of the 2016 presidential campaign, advising the audience that he was not afraid to be politically incorrect and that he would stand up for faith.

“Christianity is under siege,” he noted at the time.

Donald Trump is a breath of fresh air. The American public is finally ready to elect a candidate who is not a career politician but rather who has succeeded in real life,” campus chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. told the assembled students.

Faith is an important dynamic here. Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, and founded by evangelist Jerry Falwell, the campus is the nation’s fifth-largest university, and the world’s largest Christian university.

Liberty is graduating nearly 6,000 students with military ties, including over 3,700 who have served or are serving in the armed forces, almost 2,000 of whom are on active duty. There are 51 married couples graduating together, 23 parents graduating with a child, 48 siblings graduating together, and nine sets of twins sharing their graduation day.

Yes, protests are planned, but well way from the campus. Both the Seven Hills Progressive Society and the Lynchburg Democratic Committee will be on hand, declaring themselves Trump’s Non-Welcoming Committee.

“We are not disrupting the graduation in any way, shape or form, but simply exercising our First Amendment right to free speech,” they advise.

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