December 8, 2017 : By Will Young - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Friday’s Convocation at Liberty University showcased a panel discussion with President Jerry Falwell and three prominent figures who have chronicled the rise of U.S. President Donald Trump, the role of the media, and the future political landscape of America.
Falwell was joined on stage by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie, and award-winning journalist and Charisma Magazine founder Stephen Strang. They shared anecdotes from their latest books on Trump’s presidency; Lewandowski and Bossie co-authored the book “Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency,” and Strang wrote “God and Donald Trump.”
Falwell led the discussion, along with Robert Hurt, a former U.S. congressman and the executive director of Liberty’s Center for Law & Government. They asked guests about Trump’s first year in the presidency and how conservative-minded politicians can follow Trump in taking back America, something the panel said has always been central to Trump’s vision.
“If you look back at 20 to 30 years of videotape that is out there, you will see this president talk about bad trade deals and what it takes for America to succeed economically around the world,” Bossie said. “You see him talking about these blue-collar issues, and we called him the ‘Blue Collar Billionaire,’ so this has been something that has been true to him for a long time.”
Falwell, Lewandowski, and Bossie — all having firsthand experience with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign — focused the conversation on how Trump is currently reshaping American politics and told stories of memorable experiences from the campaign trail.
Falwell gave students many behind-the-scenes stories of when he moderated rallies for Trump’s presidential campaign, sharing his experiences traveling with Trump to high-energy campaign rallies and talking on cable news shows.
Lewandowski said that Falwell became one of Trump’s most trusted allies and one of the first people Trump would call when in need of advice and direction.
“Every time, as the campaign manager to Donald Trump, I called the Falwell family, they showed up,” Lewandowski said. “They were there as steadfast supporters of the president when no one else was.”
Strang said he doesn’t believe enough people know Trump as a faith-centered leader. He gave examples of how he believes Trump has prioritized God while in the White House, including recently recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“I wrote this book because I thought that it is important to talk about the spiritual aspect of what is going on, not just the politics,” Strang said. “(Trump) is not the kind of person that evangelicals would normally look to. … But the people in the Bible were not perfect at all, and yet God used them.”
The guests also commented on how different Liberty is from other universities. Lewandowski commended Falwell for leading a university that does not foster an elitist culture — like he said he saw when he visited Harvard University and other Ivy-league schools — but rather a culture founded on servanthood and a love for country.
“The difference between what President Falwell has done here at Liberty and what has been done at Harvard is night and day,” Lewandowski said. “It is so refreshing to come to a university where people care about their country.”
Falwell echoed Lewandowski, saying that he believes the servant-minded culture at Liberty is what makes it such a special place and also what makes it different than other universities.
“At Liberty, it’s all about what we can do to serve others, and I think that’s what’s going to make you all much more successful when you get into the real world,” Falwell said, addressing the students. “Those are the attributes that lead to true success, and I just have to believe that those guys at Duke and Harvard are going to be working for you all someday.”
The mainstream media was also a topic of conversation for the panel. When asked about Trump’s antagonistic relationship with the media, Lewandowski answered by calling Trump a “fighter” against the fake news that he believes has long been propagated by mainstream news outlets. Bossie followed with criticism of what he sees as the media’s biased portrayal of Trump as an unfit leader of the nation.
“The mainstream media wants to build Trump into this caricature of somebody who they want, of somebody that people will dislike,” Bossie said. “But through the campaign, we just had an amazing experience with (Trump), and he is just so kind and generous.”
The panel discussion ended with an uplifting discussion on the positive change that Trump’s conservative movement has brought to America and an encouraging outlook for the future of the nation that all of the panel members agreed is being fostered by Trump’s presidency. Following Convocation, students were given the opportunity to purchase signed copies of the books.