Inauguration 2017: Witnessing History

February 10, 2017

Inauguration 2017: Witnessing History

February 10, 2017


Last year, the spring semester kicked off with Convocation featuring then-presidential candidate Donald Trump as the guest speaker. It was one of the most heavily attended Convocations to date. President Jerry Falwell introduced Trump as “one of the greatest visionaries of our time.” One year later, almost to the day, Liberty students watched as their former guest speaker was introduced for the first time as the 45th President of the United States.

Members of Liberty’s Eagle Scholars program stand with President Jerry Falwell and his wife, Becki, after arriving in Washington, D.C., for Inauguration 2017 festivities.

Members of Liberty’s Eagle Scholars program stand with President Jerry Falwell and his wife, Becki, after arriving in Washington, D.C., for Inauguration 2017 festivities.

Whether students were watching the swearing-in of Trump from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., or taking time to pray for our nation during Convocation in the Vines Center, they all became part of the nation’s 58th Presidential Inauguration. Thousands gathered inside the Vines Center on Friday, Jan. 20, for a prayer service. After The Liberty Worship Collective opened the service with worship songs, a member from each class, freshman to senior, prayed for the City of Lynchburg, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the United States, and the world.

David Nasser, Liberty’s senior vice president for Spiritual Development, said the service was special because students have an amazing platform from which to impact the country.

“We have the opportunity to speak into the future of our nation,” Nasser told the students. “I hope you understand that at this particular moment, we’ve been granted by God an opportunity to speak into our government.”

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell speaks and reads Scripture during a private service at St. John’s Episcopal Church the morning of the Inauguration.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell speaks and reads Scripture during a private service at St. John’s Episcopal Church the morning of the Inauguration.

Nasser also introduced a video message to students from President Jerry Falwell and his wife, Becki, on their way to the swearing-in ceremony and just moments after Falwell spoke and read Scripture at a private church service for Donald Trump and select guests at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Falwell read one of his favorite passages, Matthew 6:5-13, from the same Bible that he used when he was a Liberty student in the 1980s; it is still filled with all of his notes and underlines. The small crowd at that private service included the then-President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence and their families, as well as the president’s new cabinet and invited guests. Falwell had a chance to speak with many of them and celebrate the upcoming Trump presidency, including Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States.

“He (Carter) stopped me afterward and told me he thought I did a good job,” Falwell said. “He said he saw my name on the program before I spoke, and he thought it was great that I’d be here to read Scripture. He was very kind.”

Liberty University held a special Inauguration Day prayer service for Convocation. Students prayed for the City of Lynchburg, the state, the country, and the world.

Liberty University held a special Inauguration Day prayer service for Convocation. Students prayed for the City of Lynchburg, the state, the country, and the world.

Back at the Vines Center, Nasser closed Convocation by reading the same Bible passage that Falwell read to the new president. Classes scheduled immediately after Convocation were cancelled so that students could watch the swearing-in ceremony.

As students poured out of the Vines Center, 200 more students were working their way onto the National Mall and the West Lawn of the Capitol.

The university reserved five buses for students to attend the Inauguration and parade on Friday. In addition, 14 Eagle Scholars (part of the university’s two-year leadership program), students and faculty from the Department of History, and members of The College Republicans also attended Inaugural events in D.C.

Students pose in front of the Capitol Building when they arrived for the Inauguration. Five buses of students left campus early Friday morning.

Students pose in front of the Capitol Building when they arrived for the Inauguration. Five buses of students left campus early Friday morning.

“Being on the Mall made me feel like I was a part of history,” said sophomore Logan Smith.

A journalism major, Smith said he was impressed with Trump’s Inauguration speech.

“He never deviated from his initial message 18 months ago,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to say I went to Trump’s Inauguration. I will be able to tell my kids that down the road.”

Senior Autumn Price, one of more than 40 history majors on the trip, said the experience was remarkable.

“The hope and energy you could feel in the crowd was fantastic,” she said. “It left me in awe. I had a blast, and I will remember this trip for the rest of my life.”

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell with former President Jimmy Carter

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell with former President Jimmy Carter

John Wood, who attended the Inauguration with fellow members of The College Republicans, said the trip was a culmination of what he and other students had been working toward for over a year.

“When you are standing on the National Mall with hundreds of thousands of people who believe what you believe and are just as excited as you are to see what the next four years will hold, it is rejuvenating and makes the work you have put in worth it,” he said. “When I left Washington, D.C., on Friday, I was excited for the future and eager to get to work.”

(CLICK TO EXPAND) LU Praise, Liberty’s gospel choir, sings at the Inaugural National Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral on Jan. 21.

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) LU Praise, Liberty’s gospel choir, sings at the Inaugural National Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral on Jan. 21.

On Saturday, Jan. 21, Liberty’s gospel choir, LU Praise, sang two songs at the  Inaugural National Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral.

The Inaugural Prayer Service, a tradition dating back as far as President George Washington, included President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and their families, as well as invited guests. President Falwell, his wife, Becki, and their family attended. After President Falwell told Vice President-elect Pence about LU Praise in early January, the 28-student singing group was asked by the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee 2017 to be a part of the service. Other groups performing included The United States Army Band, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, and the Washington National Cathedral Choir. Many prominent leaders from different faiths read Scripture and spoke.

Liberty’s gospel choir, LU Praise, sang two songs at the  Inaugural National Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral.

Liberty’s gospel choir, LU Praise, sang two songs at the Inaugural National Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral.

“Of the thousands of groups in America that could have been chosen, we understand that the vice president-elect personally chose LU Praise to sing for the event,” said Dr. Vernon Whaley, dean of Liberty’s School of Music. “I was so proud of our Liberty University students. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone in the group. I am so grateful that our students had this opportunity. They sang with grateful spirits in honor of a nation that celebrates the transition of power from one president to another with grace and peace. This was a historic moment that I will never, ever forget.”

Whaley said the audience was “hugely responsive.”

“They were so complimentary of the way our students presented themselves in every way … not just in singing. Even during the time when we were standing in line for the security clearance, our LU students interacted with some really well-known personalities, pastors, military leaders, and politicians with grace, expertise, and enormous skill.”

Falwell said Liberty was “honored and humbled to have had such a prominent role in such an important event for our nation.”

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump react to the LU Praise performance.

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump react to the LU Praise performance.

LU Praise sang the prelude, “Total Praise,” as well as “We’ve Come This Far By Faith,” a theme song for Liberty in the early 70s when the young college was struggling in its first years of existence. Whaley said the songs were requested by the Presidential Inaugural Committee and Falwell said it was providential that they chose a song that was an integral part of Liberty’s history. “Hearing that song in that setting brought me to tears,” he said.

“This experience will have a lasting effect on all of us and on future LU Praise members,” said graduate music student and LU Praise member KyLisa Freeman. “Our goal was to make Christ known and to leave confident that people had had an encounter with God.”

LU Praise was formed in 2006. The group, which blends gospel and worship music, has led worship and performed across the country.

Watch a broadcast of the National Prayer Service, featuring LU Praise, on the Washington National Cathedral’s YouTube channel.


DidYouKnow

“Inauguration” was the No. 1 search on Google in the U.S. during the swearing-in ceremony, with Lynchburg, Va. (home of Liberty University) being the top town searching — ahead of Hyattsville, Md. (2), Tysons, Va. (3), Provo, Utah (4), and Mobile, Ala. (5).


President Falwell excited about influencing education policy in Trump administration

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell said he was humbled by the offer he received in November from then President-elect Donald J. Trump to serve as Secretary of Education. He just couldn’t accept it.

“I told him there’s so much unfinished business that I have here at Liberty that we’re right in the middle of achieving,” Falwell said. “So, we started talking about other things I could do.”

One of Trump’s aides asked Falwell to serve on an education task force within the Administration. His top goal in this new role will be to help eliminate many of the regulations that the Department of Education has placed on colleges and universities, regulations that he said “have gotten out of hand.”

“There’s almost unanimity among college presidents. It’s not a conservative or liberal issue; it’s an autonomy issue for universities and their regional accrediting agencies, to not be micromanaged by the Department of Education (DOE),” he said. “I’ve been working with a number of college presidents and other leaders in education to identify what changes need to be made.  I’d really like to see more freedom from federal intrusion for universities across the country in a variety of areas.”

Falwell, who was a member of Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board during the campaign, has spoken publicly about his excitement over Trump’s victory and what that means for America, often as a guest of network news programs such as Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, Fox and Friends, Sean Hannity, and Erin Burnett of CNN.

Liberty President Jerry Falwell (right) and his family attended the Liberty Inaugural Ball. From left, Trey and Sarah Falwell, Caroline Falwell, Laura and Wesley Falwell, and Becki Falwell.

Liberty President Jerry Falwell (right) and his family attended the Liberty Inaugural Ball. From left, Trey and Sarah Falwell, Caroline Falwell, Laura and Wesley Falwell, and Becki Falwell.

Falwell said his personal endorsement of Trump led to a lot of national attention for Liberty University, which has been positive.

“Liberty’s been in the limelight probably more over the past year than ever before,” Falwell said. “And the timing is perfect because we’ve never had more to offer than we do now.”


Looking Back: Donald Trump’s visits to campus

Donald Trump first visited Liberty University in September 2012, where he spoke at Convocation before a record crowd. His talk focused on the nation’s debt, unemployment, dependence on foreign goods, and the oil crisis — as well as the lack of leadership to tackle these ever-growing concerns.

“The world is laughing at us,” he said. “We just seem to have lost our edge, and now we’re in a position that unless things take place and take place fast, we are going to be, for many, many years to come, in serious trouble to the point that I don’t know if we can really come back.”

Trump praised Liberty for continuing to make an impact on the nation and honored Liberty’s founder, Jerry Falwell Sr., and Liberty’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., for their roles in all that Liberty had accomplished.

“This is an amazing school. … All over the world they are talking about it — Liberty University, what they’ve done and in such a short time. You can be very, very proud of yourself and your leaders.

When asked at a press conference why he accepted the invitation to come to Liberty (and waived his speaking fee as a gift to the school), he said, “I’ve heard so much about Liberty and the job that’s been done, that this was really, really my honor.”

Liberty President Jerry Falwell said that since Trump’s first visit, he and Trump, as well as Trump’s staff and family members, have stayed in touch. When Trump returned in 2016 as a presidential candidate, Falwell’s introduction included the many sides of the successful real estate investor that the media had not been privileged to see. Falwell shared touching stories of Trump’s generosity in helping struggling businesses and families and those affected by 9/11.

“Donald Trump has stunned the political world by building an unlikely coalition that crosses all demographic boundaries,” Falwell said during the Convocation in 2016. “Donald Trump is a breath of fresh air in a nation where the political establishment from both parties has betrayed their constituencies time and time again with broken promises and a continuation of the status quo. … Donald Trump shuns the censorship that is rooted in political correctness and speaks the plain, common sense truth that so many have been longing to hear.”

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