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Joint Chiefs chairman standing in for president at AFA graduation

April 12, 2017 Updated: April 12, 2017 at 3:15 pm
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Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 22, 2017, before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Defense Department's fiscal 2018 budget. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The new president is sending a proxy to speak to cadets at the Air Force Academy's graduation May 24.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford will give the commencement address to about 1,000 graduating cadets, the academy announced Wednesday.

In the past, some new presidents have picked up service academy graduation speeches as a way to float their military and foreign policy views before a friendly crowd. President Trump's first college graduation speech in office is slated for May 13 at Virginia's Liberty University, known as the nation's largest evangelical Christian school.

Dunford, a Marine and the nation's ranking military officer, is likely to deliver a speech with more of a personal touch.

In March the general addressed a group of Naval Academy midshipman on leadership. He told them that their time at a military academy will get them officer's rank, but not much more when they graduate.

"You know, to this point, someone cared about your grade point average. Someone cared about your level of physical fitness. Someone cared about your personal appearance. Someone cared about your accomplishments, your achievements," Dunford said according to the Pentagon's website. "The day you become commissioned, that's all in the sticker price of being a leader. Nobody cares. You get no credit anymore for any of those things."

Dunford is one of the military's most experienced leaders and earned the nickname "Fighting Joe" when he commanded a regiment of Marines in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

His speech will be the centerpiece of an hourslong graduation exercise planned for Falcon Stadium. In addition to the graduating class, thousands of family members will pack the stands for an event that ends with an air show by the Air Force Thunderbirds.

This year's graduation is earlier than in the past, coming before Memorial Day for the first time in recent memory.

Tickets are required for the event and an announcement of a public giveaway of tickets to attend the event is expected next month.

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Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

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