Trump delivering West Point commencement address Saturday
Trump announced in April that he would deliver the commencement address for the Class of 2020 – a decision met with swift condemnation from critics, who accused him of putting future military leaders’ lives at risk by forcing them to assemble during a deadly contagion.
Cadets were sent home in March when the pandemic hit and finished their studies through remote learning. Only the graduating seniors returned for Saturday's event, which is being moved from the on-campus football stadium to an expansive parade field known as the Plain.
Presidents routinely speak at commencement addresses. Trump’s speech will mark his first graduation address at West Point, although he has spoken in previous years to graduates at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.
At West Point, Trump’s remarks to graduates will come not only as the nation is still reeling from the deadly coronavirus pandemic but also at a time of racial tension, domestic unrest and turmoil between the White House and the nation’s military leaders.
Trump’s handpicked chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley, admitted Thursday he'd erred by allowing the military to be drawn into the president’s politicized response to mostly peaceful protests following the death of George Floyd. Mark Esper, Trump's defense secretary, has signaled his willingness to change the names of Army forts that honor Confederate generals, a stance Trump has rejected.
特朗普亲自挑选的参谋长联席会议主席、陆军上将马克·米莱(Mark Milley)周四承认，在乔治·弗洛伊德(George Floyd)去世后，他允许军队卷入总统对和平抗议的政治化回应，这是错误的。特朗普的国防部长马克·埃斯珀(Mark Esper)表示，他愿意更改纪念南方将军的军事堡垒的名称。特朗普拒绝了这一立场。
Seats for United States Military Academy graduating cadets are set up for social distancing before commencement ceremonies began on Saturday. JOHN MINCHILLO, AP
美国军事学院(United States Military Academy)即将毕业的学员在周六毕业典礼开始前为社交活动准备了座位。约翰MINCHILLO,美联社
Meanwhile, West Point itself has been riven by the same racial tensions roiling the nation. Minority cadets, in a confidential survey obtained by USA TODAY, say they face blatant and subtle discrimination at the nation's elite training ground for Army officers. The posting of racist videos in April by one their classmates prompted the survey.
The graduation ceremony will be livestreamed starting at 9:30 a.m. on the West Point Channel on YouTube.
Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook and The Associated Press.