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Trump Addresses Coast Guard Academy Commencement

May 17, 2017

President Donald Trump spoke to graduating cadets at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut on Wednesday.

The speech came in the midst of turmoil in Washington surrounding the firing of FBI Director James Comey, alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and the reported sharing of classified information with Russian officials in the Oval Office.

Watch the video below of the commencement, including Trump's speech.

A month before it was announced that Trump would speak in New London, the administration was considering a cut of about $1.3 billion from the Coast Guard’s budget to help pay for immigration enforcement measures, including the proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

That proposed cut might have prevented the acquisition of icebreaker ships. Trump said to Coast Guard cadets on Wednesday that the U.S. is going to build the ships.

“Out of the five branches of our armed services, it’s only the Coast Guard that has the power to break through 21 feet of rock solid Arctic ice – right?” Trump said during his speech. “You’re the only ones. And I’m proud to say that under my administration, as you just heard, we will be building the first new heavy icebreakers the United States has seen in over 40 years. We’re gonna build many of them. We need ’em.”

Cadets at the Coast Guard Academy commencement in New London.
Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR
President Donald Trump speaks at the Coast Guard Academy commencement.
Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR

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WNPR reporters Harriet Jones and Ryan Caron King tweeted from the scene at the Coast Guard Academy.

Protesters were visible outside the Coast Guard facility on Wednesday morning as Trump arrived.

Air Force One landed at Groton-New London Airport shortly before 10:30 am and the ceremony began at 11:00 am.

It's the first commencement address Trump has delivered at a military academy since becoming commander-in-chief. He spoke at Liberty University’s commencement in Lynchburg, Virginia on Saturday for his first commencement address as president.

Then-President Barack Obama spoke to new ensigns in 2015 about the importance of the Coast Guard in fighting and adapting to climate change.

In the second half of the speech, Trump revisited themes of his campaign stump speech, including criticism of the media, and defended his record while in office. He avoided directly addressing the Russia topic.

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media,” he said. “No politician in history – and I say this with great surety – has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down. You can’t the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams.”

Presidents usually rotate their visits to the military academies to deliver keynote addresses. Trump will be making his first overseas trip as president -- he leaves on Friday -- when three of the other academies hold their ceremonies.