On Saturday morning, tens of thousands of people gathered at Liberty University’s Williams Stadium to celebrate the school’s 45th Commencement. The featured speaker was none other than former President Jimmy Carter – the third U.S. President to have visited the school.
The world’s largest private Christian university previously hosted George H.W. Bush in 1990 and Donald J. Trump in 2017. University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said it was “one of the highest honors” of his life to introduce Carter to the stage.
The former president began his speech by lightheartedly joking Trump concerning the two’s commencement crowd size.
“This is a wonderful crowd,” Carter said. “Jerry told me it’s even bigger, I hate to say this, than it was last year. I don’t know if President Trump would admit that or not.”
The comment drew a laugh and applause from the crowd.
As the Hill reports, the joke referenced comments the Trump administration made about Trump’s inauguration crowd size:
Carter’s joke comes after former White House press secretary Sean Spicer famously claimed after Trump’s inauguration that he had the “largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period.”
The joke appeared to be the only reference to Trump during his speech.
Carter’s commencement focused on Christianity, human rights, equality and justice. He called on the graduating class to use their education to make a difference and to go out into the world and be truthful and kind.
The joke was the 93-year-old’s only reference to Trump in his commencement remarks.
Here’s more from Carter’s speech, per Liberty University:
“Every one of us decides, ‘This is the kind of person I choose to be,’” the 39th President of the United States told the crowd. “We’re the ones who decide, ‘Do I hate or am I filled with love … do I think only about myself or do I care for others?’ … There are no limits to our ambitions as human beings.”
Carter talked about the challenges humanity faces today: division, rising prison populations, wealth disparity, discrimination, human trafficking, and the threat of nuclear war.
“One of the things we have to learn is how to get along, to do good for one another … in other words, just following the mandates of the Prince of Peace. … We don’t need enemies to fight, nor do we need ‘inferior’ people whom we can dominate,” Carter said, quoting Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither male or female, there is neither slave nor master, for ye are all one, all one, in Christ Jesus.”
“Right now, you have the maximum opportunity to use the three gifts that God gives every one of us — life, freedom, and an opportunity to live a completely successful life — as judged by God,” Carter added. “We have a perfect example to follow if we are in doubt; we just have to remember the perfect life of Jesus Christ.”
During the commencement, the university reportedly awarded a few honorary degrees, including: an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree to Carter, an honorary Doctor of Business to Don Hershey (owner of Hershey Equipment and Liberty’s first million-dollar donor), and an honorary Doctor of Science to U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson.
Here’s more, from Liberty University:
Liberty also awarded three honorary doctorates during Friday night’s Baccalaureate Service: Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney and Liberty Law alumnus Mark Hicks, Lynchburg businessman Danny Moon, and financial advisor Horance “Buck” Floyd.
At Commencement, Liberty thanked the more than 6,200 military service members, veterans, and military spouses in the Class of 2018 for their service. (These graduates were also honored at a special ceremony Friday night.)
In his address to graduates, Falwell talked about the miracle that is Liberty University. He recounted some of the hardships that his father, Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell, and his grandfather faced.
“My own dad would not have been born had it not been for the tragedies that his parents faced,” Falwell said. “We usually can’t make sense of our sorrows as we are going through them … but God knows what He is doing and He can be trusted. … All you have to do is look around this campus and look at these wonderful graduates to see how joy grew out of suffering.”
Watch the full commencement below:
The Liberty University 45th Commencement, Saturday, May 19. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m ET
Posted by Liberty University on Saturday, May 19, 2018