President Trump's West Point Commencement Speech Will Require 1,000 Cadets Return to Campus
West Point University's 2020 graduation ceremony is set to take place on June 13
President Donald Trump's announcement that he will speak at West Point University's graduation in June has left many concerned for the safety of the cadets who are being recalled to the university amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the New York Times, 1,000 West Point cadets are being summoned to return to the New York-based university from across the country for Trump's commencement speech during graduation, now planned for June 13.
Officials and cadets from West Point were previously sent home once graduation was initially postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. But on April 17, Trump confirmed the event was back on — for now.
"I'm doing it at West Point, which I look forward to," Trump said at the daily White House press briefing, per the Times. "I did it last year at Air Force, I did it at Annapolis, I did it at the Coast Guard Academy, and I'm doing it at West Point. And I assume they're — they've got it, and I understand they'll have distancing. They'll have some big distance, and so it'll be very different than it ever looked."
Currently, New York has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths of all 50 states in the U.S. Of course, the status of active cases could shift within the next two months, as could the president's plans to give the speech.
"He's the commander in chief, that's his call," Sue Fulton, a West Point graduate and former chairwoman of the academy's Board of Visitors, said of the president, per the Times. "Cadets are certainly excited about the opportunity to have something like the classic graduation, standing together, flinging their hats in the air."
However, Fulton reportedly said that "everyone is leery about bringing 1,000 cadets into the New York metropolitan area for a ceremony."
"It's definitely a risk," she added.
West Point said in a statement last week that the ceremony "will look different from recent graduation ceremonies because of current force health protection requirements." West Point’s superintendent told the Times that the returning students would be tested for coronavirus before being allowed back on campus and they would follow other safety protocols, such as wearing masks.
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Last Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence delivered the commencement address in person at the 2020 graduates U.S. Air Force Academy. During the ceremony, cadets wore face masks, marched six feet apart, and were placed in socially distanced seats. Family members and spectators were banned from attending.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, opted not to hold an in-person graduation ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, a virtual event is set for the graduating midshipmen.
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