In his first commencement address as president, Donald Trump promised Liberty University students that he will protect their religious freedom, and he encouraged them to embrace being an outsider to change the world.
"As long as I am your president, no one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith," Trump told the students at the evangelical Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia on Saturday.
"When the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, they prayed. When the founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, they invoked our Creator four times. Because in America, we don't worship government, we worship God," he continued.
The president received a warm welcome from the crowd of about 50,000 people who attended the commencement ceremony on Saturday. He was the second sitting president to deliver a commencement address at Liberty after George H.W. Bush, who gave a speech at the university in 1990, according to The Washington Post.
Trump, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree at the ceremony, encouraged the students to embrace being an outsider.
"Being an outsider is fine. Embrace the label, because it's the outsiders who change the world and who make a real and lasting difference. The more that a broken system tells you that you're wrong, the more certain you should be that you must keep pushing ahead," he said.
Liberty University President Jerry Fallwell Jr., who endorsed Trump in the 2016 campaign, said that he was honored that the president chose the university for his first commencement speech. Several newly elected presidents, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, have picked the University of Notre Dame to deliver their first in-office commencement speeches. Vice President Mike Pence has been dispatched to speak at Notre Dame's graduation ceremony next Saturday.
Trump has had a rough relationship with Liberty's student body prior to the 2016 election. When he gave a speech at the university a week before Falwell endorsed him, the students laughed when he referred to one of the books in the New Testament as "Two Corinthians."
In the weeks before the election, a group of students called Liberty United Against Trump launched a petition calling on other students to oppose Trump. The petition came after The Washington Post leaked a 2005 video recording of Trump boasting about being able to "do anything" to women and get away with it.
After the 2017 inauguration, Falwell said that the president offered him the position of secretary of education, but he declined to accept it. In February, he was asked to head a White House task force on reforming the U.S. higher education system.