Trump blasts 'chorus of critics' in commencement speech

President Trump on Saturday in his first commencement speech since taking office blasted "a small group of failed voices" in Washington, urging graduates to not compromise their personal beliefs.

"In my short time in Washington, I've seen first-hand how the system is broken," Trump told graduates at Liberty University, an evangelical school in Lynchburg, Va.

"A small group of failed voices, who think they know everything, and understand everyone, want to tell everybody else how to live and what to do and how to think," he continued.

"But you aren't going to let other people tell you what you believe, especially when you know that you are right."


The address marked Trump's third appearance at Liberty, which bills itself as the world's largest Christian university. Its president, Jerry Falwell Jr., noted that Trump was only the second sitting president after George H.W. Bush to address the school's graduating class.

In his appearance Saturday – which was complete with Falwell presenting Trump with an honorary law degree from the school – the president did not directly address controversy over his decision to fire FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyThe FBI should turn off the FARA faucet Barr threatened to resign over Trump attempts to fire Wray: report 'Fox News Sunday' to mark 25 years on air MORE, which has enveloped his administration.

Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Virginia that his pick for a new FBI chief could come before he leaves for an overseas trip next Friday. Trump said he was reaching out to "very well known" candidates, calling them "outstanding people."

Lawmakers from both parties have spent days questioning the timing of Trump's decision to fire Comey, who was leading the probe into possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia during the election.

The administration struggled this week to explain the circumstances surrounding Comey's ouster, with Trump on Thursday undercutting the message from senior White House officials that his decision to fire the FBI chief was dependent on a Justice Department recommendation.

Trump took to Twitter on Friday to blast critics, threatening to leak "tapes" of his conversations with Comey and suggesting he may cancel future White House press briefings in retaliation over days of mixed messages emerging over his decision to dismiss the FBI director.

As part of the controversy, The New York Times reported that Trump demanded Comey pledge his loyalty during a dinner earlier this year. Comey reportedly refused, offering only to be honest.

Trump told Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro in an interview excerpt released Friday that he did not demand the ousted FBI chief's loyalty, but said he did not find such a request "inappropriate," adding, "I don’t think it would be a bad question to ask. I think loyalty to the country, loyalty to the United States is important."

In a pointed moment of his address Saturday, Trump remarked that worshipping God is “why our elected officials put their hands on the Bible and say ‘so help me God’ as they take the oath of office.”

"In America, we don’t worship government, we worship God," Trump said.

Trump encouraged graduates to challenge the status quo and be undeterred by criticism.

"Being an outsider is fine, embrace the label. Because it's the outsiders who change the world," Trump said.

The president also broadly scolded "critics," arguing that the future belongs "to the dreamers, not to the critics."

“No one has ever achieved anything significant without a chorus of critics standing on the sidelines explaining why it can’t be done,” Trump said. “Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic, because they’re people that can’t get the job done.”

"But the future belongs to the dreamers, not to the critics. The future belongs to the people who follow their heart no matter what the critics say."

Updated: 3 p.m.