For his first commencement speech as commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump returned to a place that was key to shoring up evangelical support for his presidential campaign.
While addressing graduates at Liberty University on Saturday, Trump thanked the crowd for helping him achieve the presidency.
Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty's president and an early Trump supporter, helped him win an overwhelming 80 percent of the white evangelical vote in the 2016 election.
"Right here, the Class of 2017, dressed in cap and gown, graduating to a totally brilliant future; and here I am, standing before you as president of the United States. So I'm guessing there are some people here today who thought that either one of those things — either one — would really require major help from God," Trump said.
He encouraged graduates to embrace the label of "outsider" and stand up for their beliefs.
"America is better when people put their faith into action," Trump said. "As long as I am president, no one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith or from preaching what's in your heart."
On "America's Newsroom" today, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a Liberty graduate, said Trump wasn't just addressing the graduates and their families, but all evangelicals across the country.
He said that Trump has made it abundantly clear that his administration will not be hostile to religious expression, as the previous administration was.
"I do believe we have begun a new chapter in American history," Perkins said.
He said that Trump's executive order on religion and his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court are examples of how he is taking historic steps to protect Americans' religious liberty.
"His speech matters. The rhetoric is not just pure rhetoric," Perkins said. "There's a record that he is amassing to back that up. We have truly begun a new chapter in American history where we have an administration that is not only welcoming of faith, but he said in his executive order they will vigorously protect and promote religious freedom."
"For evangelicals, that's music to our ears."
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