COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (AP) - President Donald Trump told newly minted Air Force officers on Thursday that "to dominate the future, America must rule the skies."
Speaking at the U.S. Air Force Academy commencement, Trump praised the class of "rock-ribbed American patriots" and paid tribute to them for choosing "a harder path and a higher calling" to protect the United States.
"It's tougher," Trump said. "But in the end it's better. You'll see."
Trump said the academy's 991 graduates were joining the "long blue line," saying no one can foresee the challenges they will face, but that no matter what, "You are going to be ready to serve. You are going to be ready to lead."
The U.S. president traditionally rotates commencements among the four service academies, and Thursday marked Trump's first address to Air Force Academy graduates.
Trump used the opportunity to highlight his administration's investments in defense spending, saying, "Our military is stronger, mightier and more powerful with all of that new aircraft than ever before."
He said these investments would ensure the country can "Deter any aggressor and thrash any foe."
Trump was introduced by Heather Wilson, a graduate of the academy making her final public appearance as secretary of the Air Force.
"There is nation outside of this stadium depending on you," she told graduates.
Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, warned that "Many of you will face the ultimate test in combat as together we defend this great experiment called democracy." But he said they were up to the task.
Trump said he would remain at the ceremony to congratulate every one of the nearly 1,000 new second lieutenants, as well as view the customary hat-toss and Thunderbirds fly-by. He joked that he was given the opportunity to leave early, but turned it down.