And now he's in the White House.
"There may very well be a president or two in our midst", Trump said.
While much of his address didn't make specific references to his presidency, Trump did manage to slip in an apparent callback.
Trump drew parallel's between the journey of the graduates and his own presidential campaign, saying help from God was necessary to achieve both goals. Today was a great day for the University, its president Jerry Falwell Jr., and a great day for the legacy of my friend, mentor, and Liberty's founder, Dr.
The private, nonprofit Lynchburg, Virginia school was founded in 1971 and is the largest evangelical Christian university in the world.
Trump couldn't keep it together long enough to get through the commencement address at Liberty University without ranting about his critics. "We love setting records", he said.
In that speech, Trump promised to "protect Christianity".
"Following your convictions means you must be willing to face criticism from those who lack the same courage to do what is right, and they know what is right, but they don't have the courage or the guts or the stamina to take it and to do it", said Trump, who did not wear a gown. "I can promise you that".
"I've noticed a new hope and new optimism sweeping this country", Falwell said, calling on "our president's enemies" in the media and political establishment to "practice the tolerance they so often preach". Falwell, Jr., praised Trump's first few months in office, pointing to Trump's selection of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, his decision to stack his Cabinet with religious conservatives and what Falwell described as bombing "those in the Middle East who are persecuting and killing Christians".
President Donald Trump is telling college graduates that they should "relish the opportunity to be an outsider".
Mr. Trump went on the question the Liberty University students about challenging accepted wisdom and taking on established systems.
"In my short time in Washington I've seen firsthand how the system is broken", he said. "We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell's endorsement and are exhausted of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history", the letter reads.
Trump told Fox News's Jeanine Pirro in an interview excerpt released Friday that he did not demand the ousted Federal Bureau of Investigation chief's loyalty, but said he did not find such a request "inappropriate", adding, "I don't think it would be a bad question to ask. Carry yourself with dignity and pride, demand the best from yourself".
His words come more than a week after signing a religious liberty executive order that allows religious groups increased freedom of political speech.
Being an outsider is fine, he said, because it is outsiders who change the world. "Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic". "The future belongs to the people who follow their heart, no matter what the critics say, because they truly believe in their vision". He chose to stay at Liberty University and near his family.