The Thunderbirds took to the sky as nearly 1,000 cadets tossed their caps in celebration of their graduation from the Air Force Academy.

The 40 squadrons of the Class of 2019 received their diplomas and shook hands with academy leaders and commencement speaker President Donald Trump.

Cheers erupted as the newly sworn in cadets stood, and Trump left the stage.

The president's motorcade again will back up traffic through Colorado Springs. Interstate 25 will close, as will roads leading to Peterson Air Force Base.

1:00 p.m.

The sky is never, ever the limit for the Air Force Academy Class of 2019, Trump said during his commencement speech at Falcon Stadium Thursday.

"You truly make America proud. You make us all proud. Great job," President Donald Trump said to the graduating cadets at the start of his address.

And to their parents, "America is stronger thanks to your love and your support for these incredible people, these incredible graduates."

Trump was nearly an hour late for the ceremony after Air Force One took off from Washington D.C. 51 minutes behind schedule. Once on the landing strip at Peterson Air Force Base, he was greeted by 150 people led by Mayor John Suthers. Taking his time to shake hands with Suthers, local leaders and a World War II veteran from Elbert County, he left the base in a half-mile long motorcade that roared through the city as police blocked traffic.

Thunderstorms are in the forecast for Thursday afternoon, though not until 3 p.m. The Air Force Thunderbirds are expected to the air about 2:30 p.m.

Trump used his speech to tell graduates that their years grinding through the academy have prepared them for the work that will uphold justice.

"To dominate the future, America must rule the skies. And that is what your time at this great Academy has been all about," he said.

During that time, the Class of 2019 never got "tired of winning," said Trump, playing off one of his well well-known axioms. Even those who were in trouble for pranks and other mischief during their time at the academy were recognized when the president absolved them of their misdeeds.

To aid them in their missions, Trump assured the cadets of the robust technological advances in the works for the Air Force.

"We're also asking Congress to invest more in hypersonic weapons. We have things under development, the likes of which you've never seen," said Trump of space superiority, artificial intelligence and the proposed Space Force.

Applause and some shouts of "Four more years," "We love you Trump" and "Trump 2020" followed the end of Trump's speech. The Class of 2019 presented him with a painting and class coin.

12:02 p.m.

Air Force Academy cadets, faculty and other notable guests have taken to the field at Falcon Stadium as the 2019 graduation ceremonies get started nearly an hour late.

"Gracious God, what a fantastic day to fly, and an even more glorious day to graduate," said academy Chaplain Col. Paul Sutter during his invocation.

Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, the academy's superintendent, then welcomed Trump.

"That he is here today as our commencement speaker is an incredible honor for our Academy," Silveria said. "Mr. President, thank you for joining us today."

But before the commencement address, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson had a few words for the graduates. Each highlighted the cadets' roles in ensuring the safety and security of the United States at home and overseas.

"There is a nation outside of this stadium depending on you," Wilson said.

Goldfein emphasized the protection of American values: "Like your legacy class of 1969, several of whom are here today, many of you will face the ultimate test in combat as together we defend this great experiment called democracy."

11:00 a.m.

One by one, the slick black vehicles in Trump's motorcade rolled onto the field at Falcon Stadium about 11 a.m. Waves of cheering emanated from the crowd.

-Rachel Riley, @rachel_m_riley

10:43 a.m.

The stands at Falcon Stadium are nearly filled 15 minutes after the ceremony was slated to begin.

10:16 a.m.

The motorcade escorting President Trump to the Air Force Academy has left Peterson Air Force Base. Interstate 25 will close to the public during the trip, which will snarl traffic Powers Boulevard from Peterson's west gate, Fountain Boulevard from Powers to Interstate 25 and I-25 from Fountain to the Academy.

A group of people are lined up on the streets of Peterson to wave at the passing president.

-Tom Roeder, @xroederx

Air Force Thunderbirds: When and where to watch Thursday's air show

9:59 a.m.

The president landed at Peterson Air Force Base. There to greet him was greeted by a crowd of 150 that included dignitaries led by Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.

Despite his tardiness, Trump didn't hurry, pausing to chat with Suthers and local leaders before shaking hands with a World War II veteran from Elbert County.

-Tom Roeder, @xroederx

9:54 a.m.

As Colorado Springs awaits the arrival of commencement speaker President Donald Trump, the stands of Falcon Stadium are filling up fast.

9:47 a.m.

Jesse Sidhu, a sophomore cadet, and Justin Yates, a freshman cadet, are working escort duty at graduation.

“They talk about graduation all year and you don’t believe it’s actually happening, and now that it’s here it’s very awe inspiring,” Yates said.

“It’s pretty inspirational to watch,” Sidhu said. “This place isn’t easy.”

-Conrad Swanson, @conrad_swanson

9:46 a.m.

President Donald Trump's flight to Colorado Springs is at least 15 minutes late. It is not known when he is expected to arrive.

9:02 a.m.

The Air Force Thunderbirds are lined up on the tarmac ready to fly. If all goes as planned, the Thunderbirds will fly over Falcon Stadium at 1:30 p.m. during the hat toss.

8:02 a.m.

Falcon Stadium is beginning to fill up. Many people are wearing blue t-shirts, hoodies, hats or jackets blazoning the Air Force logo. A few don the token “Make America Great Again” hats.

On the field, the Air Force band is rehearsing. Cadets are wiping down each chair for the soon-to-be grads to ensure the white pants they will wear during the ceremony keep clean.

-Rachel Riley, @rachel_m_riley

2019 Air Force Academy graduation marks 58th year of flyovers by the Thunderbirds

Trump's flight on Air Force One from Washington DC lifted off about 50 minutes behind schedule, Mark Knoller, White House correspondent for CBS, tweeted. The academy has not sent out any notices regarding delays.


The motorcade escorting the president from Peterson Air Force Base to the academy and the flock of attendees will snarl traffic Powers Boulevard from Peterson's west gate, Fountain Boulevard from Powers to Interstate 25 and I-25 from Fountain to the Academy.

Trump is widely expected to address his desire for a new Space Force in his speech. That proposal is now being debated in Congress and would have a big impact in Colorado Springs, which is home to Air Force Space Command and military units that control most of the Defense Department’s satellites.

The Air Force Thunderbirds also will make their annual graduation appearance, flying over Falcon Stadium at about 1:30 p.m. as cadets throw their hats skyward.

If all goes as planned, the graduation could be spared of bad weather. The National Weather Service predicted mostly sunny skies in the morning with a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms mainly after 3 p.m. at the academy. 

More of The Gazette's coverage of this year's graduation:

-Air Force Academy graduation survival guide: Everything you need to know

-Air Force Academy worried about weather for Trump's graduation visit — and a logistical nightmare

-Graduation Vignettes: 'He's someone you're gonna read about'

-Air Force cadet conquered cancer to get lieutenant's bars

-2019 Air Force Academy graduation marks 58th year of flyovers by the Thunderbirds

-Air Force Thunderbirds: When and where to watch Thursday's air show

-Assignments for Air Force athletes from the Class of 2019: Where they are going

-David Ramsey: Let's return to Nixon's polarizing Air Force Academy graduation speech

Gazette reporters Tom Roeder, Conrad Swanson, Rachel Riley, David Ramsey, Jerilee Bennett, Christian Murdock, Parker Seibold and Hannah Tran are at Falcon Stadium, Peterson Air Force Base and across Colorado Springs covering the Air Force Academy graduation. Liz Forster is compiling the live blog.

Twitter: @lizmforster

Phone: 636-0193

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