12:00 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: At ease. Good afternoon, and welcome to the White House. And this is officially, for you, most of you know, the Rose Garden. Very special. Very, very special place. Today is a day of celebration, so relax and have a good time.
I have no higher honor as President than to serve as the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces. And I truly have no greater pleasure than to award the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, for the first time in 21 years, to the Army Black Knights. Congratulations. (Applause.)
A special thanks to West Point Superintendent, Lieutenant General Bob Caslen. Where’s Bob? Where’s Bob? Come here, Bob. How do you like it, Bob? Bob Caslen. You know — do you remember our meeting? Right?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CASLEN: Yes, sir. I do.
THE PRESIDENT: That was a good meeting, right?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CASLEN: It was. It was great.
THE PRESIDENT: But I’m glad you did what you did. And you have done a fantastic job. Thank you, Bob.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CASLEN: I think you made the right choice, sir. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I made the right choice with you. General, you’re a great leader — and a legendary institution that has been a source of pride and strength for our country for more than two centuries.
I’d like to welcome two West Point grads serving in my administration who are here today to celebrate the Black Knights history and, really, that historic victory: Secretary of the Army Mark Esper. Where is Mark? Mark. Mark. Mark? How are you, Mark? Doing a great job. And a man that has gotten more publicity than me, lately, our new Secretary of State –- first in his class at West Point. Is that a true story?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CASLEN: It is. And I was his —
THE PRESIDENT: Come on, tell me, is that true?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CASLEN: He was first in his class. And he is who he is today because I was his Tac Officer as well. (Laughter and applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Mike Pompeo. And he’s been busy. General, he’s been very busy. He’s been a busy guy. How’s everything going? Good? I think better than people even understand. Right? Good. Good job, Mike.
A warm welcome to Deputy Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan. Patrick, thank you very much. Thank you, Patrick. (Applause.) As well as the Army Chief of Staff — a very special guy — General Mark Milley. Thank you. Thank you, General. (Applause.)
Finally, and most importantly, welcome to Coach Jeff Monken. See? They say, “most important.” Today is a very important day. He’s a great coach. And the 2017 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy-winning team, the Army Black Knights. That really is something very special. Coach, thank you very much. What a job. (Applause.)
I assume you have him signed to a long-term contract. Right? He could get a little expensive here. Good job, Coach. (Laughter.)
COACH MONKEN: Let’s hope so.
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know. But he said he loves his team coming back, so you have another good season planned. I know that.
As the team had an amazing season, capping it off with a come-from-behind victory at the Armed Forces Bowl — a game I watched, and that was a very exciting game. That was old-fashioned football. Everybody had counted you out, but you refused to give up. You scored 21 points in the fourth quarter alone. Your victory gave Army its second 10-win season in the entire history of Army football. That’s something.
Winning a bowl game is truly impressive, and you really — shutting out Air Force — and Air Force is a great football power and a great football school — 21 to nothing. But we all know that your most important win was at the celebrated Army-Navy game. There is no game like that, I think, Coach. Right? That’s something special.
On that snowy day you fought hard, you came from behind, and beat Navy for the second season in a row; the first time that it’s happened in over two decades. That’s what you call a job well done. Amazing. Really amazing. (Applause.)
In that most crucial game of the year, you made the entire U.S. Army proud, and you made the country proud. Early in the third quarter, Navy was up 10 to 7 when their quarterback started racing down the field. One of your team captains, John Voit — no relation to Jon Voight. He wouldn’t be too good of a football player, but he’s good at other things. Right? John Voit — where’s John?
MR. VOIT: Right here, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Come on over here, John. Big guy. (Laughter and applause.) Think he’s good looking enough, Mike? I don’t know. Well, so you went down and you stopped him with a shoestring tackle. What a play, John. So if he doesn’t make that shoestring tackle, what happens, Coach?
COACH MONKEN: We probably don’t win the game.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re probably not standing here right now, Coach. (Laughs.) That’s fantastic. Thank you, man.
MR. VOIT: Appreciate it, Mr. President. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: That was great. That stop saved the game for Army and put all of you in the record books. It’s what it’s done. You’re in the record books. Incredible season.
Then there’s your great Army quarterback that we all know, co-captain Ahmad Bradshaw. Ahmad. (Applause.) Oh, I could just see the NFL. I don’t know, Ahmad. (Laughter.) I don’t know, Ahmad. I think you’d rather be doing what you’re doing, and you’re doing an unbelievable job. What a great game you had.
You became Army’s all-time, single-season rushing leader with 1,746 yards. That’s a lot of yards. That’s all-time. You didn’t just break the Army record, Ahmad; you broke the rushing record for every single service academy ever. So that is a tremendous achievement. Thank you. (Applause.)
And I understand that one of the toughest moments of the year came with only two games left in the season — I hate to bring this up, but we have to, Coach — when the University of North Texas scored a winning field goal in the last seconds of the game. The final score was a heartbreaking 52-49.
Back in the locker room, Coach Monken looked every player — every single one of them — in the eye. And with great inspiration he asked, “Do you want to win with me?” “Do you want to win with me?” Right, Coach? I guess they said, “Yes.” Right?
COACH MONKEN: They did.
THE PRESIDENT: They responded. Finally, the Coach declared, “We are not losing another game this year. We’re going to outwork, outcoach, and outplay everyone.” And that’s what they did. And that’s why you’re at the Rose Garden of the White House right now receiving this really incredible trophy — very meaningful trophy.
Each of you is part of a great tradition of Army football excellence that goes back many generations. And it’s true excellence. Here today is one of the great examples of that tradition, a key member of the legendary 1958 team. Exactly 60 years ago, Army went totally undefeated. That’s pretty good, General. Right? Good team.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CASLEN: It is.
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know. Do you think they could have beaten you guys? I don’t know.
PARTICIPANTS: No! (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: They might have been smaller and not as fast. (Laughs.) But I’d like to recognize a member of that historic team, former All-American guard — a lot of people know this name if they know football even a little bit — great linebacker, Bob Novogratz. Where’s Bob? Where is Bob? Come here, Bob. Hey, Bob. Come here, Bob. (Applause.) He’s a big guy. He’s a big guy. Come on up here, Bob. Come on up.
Still looks good. They keep them good at West Point — right, Mike? Stand up here with us. General, is he allowed to stand with you? I don’t know. Should we let him stand up here?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CASLEN: Yes, sir.
PARTICIPANT: He’s in the hall of fame.
THE PRESIDENT: Should we let him stand up here, fellas?
PARTICIPANT: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: He’s in the hall of fame, is right.
To all of the players here today, West Point adopted each one of you into its history, traditions, and values. The Corps gave you a fundamental piece of who you are and who you will always be.
You have given back to the Corps with dedication and teamwork, with every effort to achieve physical and academic excellence, with your embrace of those three most hallowed words: duty, honor, country.
When each of you stepped out on the field, you had the pride of knowing that you played for Army. You won for Army. And very soon, you will be officers and leaders in that incredible group of heroes called the United States Army. And they really are a group of heroes.
If you look at the world, by the way, we are respected again. Is that right, General? We are respected again —
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CASLEN: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: — at the highest level. You can see what’s going on. You see a big difference. There’s a big, big difference. And fellas, we just got approved $700 billion, this year; $716 billion for next year. And that’s for you and the Armed Forces. And we’ve never had that before. Stronger than ever before is what’s happening, right? Is that a correct statement, General? I see there’s one very happy general sitting right there. He’s definitely an Army guy, too, isn’t he? You were very happy with this game, weren’t you, General? I know you well.
The lessons you’ve learned on what General Douglas MacArthur called “the fields of friendly strife,” you will soon put into service for our nation. I know that each of you will serve with the same commitment, determination, and character that have earned you distinction on the Gridiron. You will be courageous members of the Long Gray Line that stretches back to the earliest days of our republic.
You will be part of the five proud branches of the United States Armed Forces — Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and the Coast Guard. And we’re actually thinking of a sixth, and that would be the Space Force. Does that make sense? The Space Force, General. You probably haven’t even heard that. I’m just telling you now. This is perhaps — because we’re getting very big in space, both militarily and for other reasons, and we are seriously thinking of the Space Force.
And you’ll join the greatest force for peace and justice the world has ever known. You will keep us safe. You will keep us strong. You will keep us free.
And thank you for your service — and go Army. I’ll be watching you, Coach. I’ll be watching you next year. I really believe that, from what I’m hearing, this team could go on and have another incredible season. You are a special group of people, and it’s an honor to have you at the White House. Thank you very much, Coach. Please, say a few words. (Applause.)
COACH MONKEN: Thank you, Mr. President, and all of our distinguished guests. On behalf of the United States Corps of Cadets and the United States Military Academy, the Long Gray Line of West Point graduates, and the nearly one million men and women who proudly serve our country as members of the U.S. Army, Army Reserves, and Army National Guard, the Army football brotherhood is honored to accept what we consider the most coveted award in all of college football, the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.
We’re grateful for your invitation to this historic home and for welcoming the members of America’s team to be your guests here today. This is not only a team of tough, talented football players; this is a team of fighters. And just as they battle with the tenacity and unrelenting spirit to a 10-win season, a second straight bowl victory, and service academy dominance in winning this CIC trophy, they’ll battle like warriors, leading our nation’s next generation of soldiers to victory on other fields, on other days.
With us today are 28 soon-to-be commissioned cadets who will graduate this May and enter the field of arms prepared to lead and fight our nation’s wars. Joining them are dozens of fellow cadets who, in the next two to three years, will join these senior cadets as officers in the U.S. Army.
Mr. President, these young men and women embody the values — duty, honor, country — and they represent the best our nation has to offer.
We are incredibly proud to be here. Thank you for this tremendous honor. And as I invite John Voit and Ahmad Bradshaw, our team captains, to present our game uniform from the great Army-Navy victory, I say proudly: On, Brave Old Army Team! And beat Navy! (Applause.)
(A gift is presented.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)
12:15 P.M. EDT