LYNCHBURG (WSLS 10) – Donald Trump spent Martin Luther King Day at Liberty University claiming to break an attendance record in honor of “the late, great Martin Luther King,” he said.
The Republican presidential front-runner Trump did not get an endorsement during his visit.
“Liberty University does not support or oppose candidates for public office,” said university president, Jerry Falwell Jr. “Mr. Trump’s appearance here should not be interpreted by any as an endorsement by Liberty.”
Falwell welcomed Trump to address 11,000 students and guests at the university’s tri-weekly convocation comparing him, at times, to his late father.
“Like Mr. Trump, Dad would speak his mind. He would make statements that were politically incorrect,” Falwell Jr. said.
Trump took the stage at the conservative Christian university, knowing his audience and vowing early on, “We’re going to protect Christianity.”
Trump tailored his message for the audience but misspoke when citing scripture.
“Two Corinthians, right? Two Corinthians, 3:17. That’s the whole ball game. Where the spirit of the Lord, right, where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. And here there is Liberty college, Liberty University, but it is so true,” he said.
Trump; however, gained applause when talking of building the military.
“We need it now more than anything,” he said.
He touched on immigration, trade deals and being not so politically correct. Political correctness, he said, takes too much time.
“If I’m president you’re going to see Merry Christmas in department stores again.”
Deborah Harlow and Danny Towe came from Salem to land fifth row seats.
“I think people would have seen him in person they’d have better respect for him,” Towe said. “We really need change in this country and I really feel like he’ll make a change, do what’s right to help this country. I really want him in there bad,” he said.
Harlow, who was able to snap a selfie with the presidential hopeful explained it was “cool” to get close to him and get a feeling of what he really is like in person, she said.
“Very much so. He was very personable, very down-to-earth, very genuine.”
Trump touted record attendance at his speech Monday, though a liberty spokeswoman couldn’t confirm. Mitzi Bible explained, there’s an approximate 11,000 person limit in the Vines Center. Additional seating was made available at four satellite locations across campus. She did not count of the people in attendance, she said. However, attendance is mandatory at the three day a week convocations. Students are allowed to miss one per semester, Bible explained.
Alternately, specific attire on campus or at convocation is not and several students dressed to show support for Trump.
Others who said Trump doesn’t closely share their views kept an open mind and left with new perspective on the presidential hopeful.
“I was impressed with his generosity,” said graduate student Jodi Tarlton. “The way he’s been generous with people in the past I didn’t know about that.”
Trump neared the end of his speech sharing his secret to success by encouraging students to go into a field they love.
“If you don’t love what you do, you’re never going to be successful,” Trump said.
He wrapped up expanding on his campaign slogan, telling Liberty students he’d make America great again and even better than before.