It sticks with you to hear from the president of the United States, also known as the Most Powerful Man in the World. (I hope someday to hear from the Most Powerful Woman in the World.)
You might adore Donald J. Trump. You might despise him. You can’t dispute he’s president. And you can’t dispute his massive power over our country and our world.
He spoke Thursday to a packed and respectful crowd at Falcon Stadium. These were moments that will long remain in the minds of the crowd.
Here’s what I mean:
A decade ago, I was sitting on a plane awaiting departure in Minneapolis when a fellow passenger heard I was from Colorado Springs. She remembered, in detail, listening to John F. Kennedy's June address to the Air Force Academy’s 1963 graduates at Falcon Stadium.
JFK’s hair was flapping in the breeze, she said. He laughed frequently and with enthusiasm. She remembered how young he looked. So much, she said, seemed ahead for him and America. Her smile vanished as she remembered the still-mysterious November day in 1963 when JFK was shot and killed in Dallas.
Those bright spring moments from 1963 when JFK spoke to AFA grads remain with her always.
It will be similar for the crowd at Trump’s speech. In 50 years, boys and girls who listened to Trump at the AFA will tell the tale to their grandchildren. These boys and girls may end up adoring Trump forevermore. They may end up despising him. Doesn’t matter. They will remember the day they heard the president.
Thursday’s speech revealed Trump at his most gracious. He didn’t speak the words “Democrats” or “Pelosi.” He mentioned “the press” only in passing and with a smile.
He opened with an indisputable remark about the parents of the cadets.
“Without them, you wouldn’t be here,” he said to the graduates.
“That’s the way it is.”
And this was a Trump flowing with exclamation marks. “Amazing!” “Like you’re never seen before!” The roar of air power, he said, is “the righteous sound of American justice!”
He scanned the sea of cadets in front of him. “Lot of good-looking people in this school, I have to say!”
The cadets are graduating at “a truly incredible time for our country! Our country is doing well! Our country is respected again!”
He introduced Air Force baseball star Nic Ready, winner of a 2018 college home-run derby. Then, to the surprise of everyone, he summoned Ready to the podium.
“Get up here, Nic!” Trump said. “I want to feel this guy’s muscles!”
And he did.
From the crowd came words of praise and love. “We love you, Donald!” was a frequent call. Two men sitting in the front row held signs that read, “Trump 2020.” Couples walked through the stadium wearing crimson “Make America Great Again” hats. No shouts of protest could be heard.
Of course, the crowd failed to offer a panoramic image of America, or Colorado Springs, under Trump. While driving to Falcon Stadium, I saw three dozen protesters standing at the very end of Academy Boulevard. “Liar in Chief,” read a typical sign. The protesters had no interest in joining a Trump lovefest.
I attended a rugged high school in Denver. Fights were common, but the battles ended on graduation day. For once, we were one in the South High spirit.
It was the same at Falcon Stadium. A respectful crowd gathered to celebrate 991 resilient Air Force graduates who persevered to the end. These grads survived one of the world’s more rigorous academic trials.
The graduation was like all graduations. A day of deserved joy. A party with meaning.
And this time, the Most Powerful Man in the World joined the celebration.