Trump Shakes Each Hand in Class of 1,000 Air Force Academy Graduates: 'You Chose a Harder Path and a Higher Calling'


Of all the jobs and responsibilities of the president, there is one that stands high above the rest: serving as commander in chief of the U.S. military.

Each president has had a different relationship with the troops. Some are more stand-offish, while others seem to relish any opportunity to spend time with American servicemen. If President Donald Trump’s visit to the U.S. Air Force Academy this week is any sign, he’s definitely in the second camp.

On Thursday, Trump arrived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to deliver the commencement address for some thousand cadets who are graduating to become officers. Although it wasn’t a requirement — he is a busy man, after all — the president stayed to shake the hand of every graduating classmate.

“They gave me a choice, they said: ‘Sir, you don’t have to shake any hands.’ Some people do that,” Trump told the sharply dressed cadets as he addressed the graduating class.

“‘You can shake the one hand, the top of the class. You can shake 10, 50 or 100,'” the president continued, recalling what advisers had told him.

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“‘Or you could also stay for 1,000.’ And I’m staying for 1,000, OK?” he said to cheers, according to ABC News.

Trump was clearly enjoying himself, but there was also a serious tone to his commencement address. The president referenced the responsibilities of being an officer in the U.S. military and took time to thank parents who had raised such high achievers.

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“You are the ones who will invent and define the next generation of air warfare. You’ll win so much you’re gonna get tired of winning,” Trump said, before also commenting that the cadets had the inner strength to “vanquish any menace that dares to threaten our country or our people.”

“To the thousands of moms and dads and grandparents and family members beaming with joy: Thank you for raising rock-ribbed, American patriots,” the president also said.

ABC News reported that true to his word, Trump spent more than an hour saluting each graduating cadet and shaking his or her hand. His appearance seemed to go over well with families of the graduating class, judging from their comments to reporters.

“I think it’s just a huge honor to the cadets that he [Trump] would take the time. He supports the military and this is his way of showing it,” the mother of one Academy graduate told ABC. Another described the president as “pro-military.”

Sure enough, he has fairly solid marks among members of the military. Just prior to the 2018 midterm election, Military Times conducted a detailed survey and found that Trump had a 44 percent positive rating overall among the troops. That might not look stellar, but it’s exceptional compared to Barack Obama’s abysmal 15 percent approval rating from the military in 2014.

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“Troops surveyed continue to give high marks to [President Trump] for his handling of military issues specifically,” Military Times reported in 2018. “More than 60 percent said they believe the military is in better shape now than it was under President Barack Obama, and nearly the same number have a favorable view of his handling of the military.”

The importance of America’s men and women in uniform is one area where partisan politics can be set aside. Regardless of the ups and downs of Washington, there’s little doubt that President Trump respects the troops — and it’s great to see him making the next generation of military leaders a top priority.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.