I honestly have no idea who spoke at my college commencement ceremony. Partially because I was hungover, and partially because my graduating class was comprised of something like 6,000 students and as my last name starts with ‘S’ I was seated pretty far toward the back and therefore was very unlikely to pay attention, regardless of who was speaking.
1,000 cadets at West Point will not have that luxury it seems, as the president has made it clear he will be giving the commencement address there in June, although no such plans existed at the time he made his announcement.
According to The New York Times, West Point cadets were sent home over spring break, and while there were talks of a delayed ceremony in June, nothing had been solidified by university officials when Trump announced he would be speaking.
“I’m doing it at West Point, which I look forward to. I did it last year at Air Force.” Trump said, after being asked about Mike Pence’s forthcoming commencement address at the Air Force Academy, “I did it in Annapolis. I did it at the Coast Guard Academy and I’m doing it at West Point. And I assume ... they’ll have distancing. They’ll have some big distance, so it’ll look very different than it ever looked.”
Thus set in motion the plans to bring 1,000 West Point cadets from across the country back to New York, the place hit hardest by covid-19 in the United States. “He’s the commander in chief, that’s his call,” said Sue Fulton, a West Point graduate, to The Times, “Cadets are certainly excited about the opportunity to have something like the classic graduation, standing together, flinging their hats in the air.” Whether or not they are excited to be forced to listen to Trump talk at them for God knows how long, she did not say.
As of now, there is a ban on military personnel traveling in the States through June 30, which will need to be waived for the 1,000 cadets and the faculty and staff who will need to travel in order to attend the ceremony, so there’s still the chance Tump might be speaking to empty chairs placed at least six feet apart should the waiver not be granted.
Doubtlessly the West Point graduates, as well as graduates at every institution, have worked tirelessly, and absolutely deserve to have their achievements celebrated and marked in a meaningful way. However, their physical and mental health and safety should be placed above the thirst for pomp and circumstance coming from the man in the White House, who will almost certainly use the address as an opportunity to laud his own achievements while only nodding toward the hard work they’ve put in.