May 6, 2019
12:30 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: At ease. This is a beautiful day. What a great group of people. Star athletes and stars in every way. It’s an honor to have you at the White House. Today, it’s my honor to present the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, for the second year in a row, to the Army Black Knights. (Applause.)
We’re pleased to be joined by Vice President Mike Pence — thank you, Mike; along with West Point graduate and Army Secretary — very good — Mark Esper. Mark, thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Also a man who has done unbelievably well for a long period of time, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley. (Applause.) Where is Mark? Hi, Mark. And Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey. (Applause.) Thanks also — thank you. Thank you, Daniel. Thank you, Daniel.
Also, thanks to members of Congress Mike Conaway, Trent Kelly, and Steve Womack. Thank you, fellas. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you.
I especially want to welcome West Point’s Superintendent, Lieutenant General Darryl Williams. (Applause.) Thank you, Darryl. Great job. And, General, I want to thank you for continuing the United States Military Academy’s famous tradition of excellence. It is indeed excellent.
And of course, we are thrilled to be joined by Coach Jeff Monken. Jeff, what a job you’ve done. (Applause.) What a job. What a job he’s done. We’ll be talking about it. Interim-Athletic Director Dan McCarthy — thank you, Dan. (Applause.) And the Army football team. The whole team is here, and we appreciate it.
Oh, there’s Mark. I’m looking all over for Mark. (Laughter.) I said, “He disappeared.” That’s not like a true Army guy. Thank you, Mark, very much.
Congratulations to all of you on a phenomenal victory. For the first time ever, the West Point football program became back-to-back winners of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. First time ever. It’s a long history. With 11 victories last season, you won more games than any other Army team in history. (Applause.) Pretty good. That’s pretty good.
Over the last two seasons, you’ve won 21 of your last 26 games. And you now hold the second-longest active winning streak in college football — trailing only a team called “Clemson,” the Clemson Tigers. Did you ever hear of that team? (Applause.) Did you ever hear of that team, fellas? They’re a good team, too. They were here. They were here.
Every time you enter the field, you prove that you are “Army Strong.” You clinched the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy in a hard-fought victory against Air Force. You led the first half as co-captain Darnell Woolfolk scored the first of two unanswered touchdowns. Where is Darnell? Come here, Darnell. (Applause.) Want to say something? Come here, Darnell. Say something. Come on. Come on, Darnell.
MR. WOOLFOLK: On behalf of the Army football team, I just want to thank everybody for coming out. All of this support has been amazing. Go Army! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Good player. Then Air Force came surging back, closing your lead to only three points. Well, that’s not good. (Laughter.) You were a little concerned, Coach? You don’t get concerned, right?
MR. MONKEN: No.
THE PRESIDENT: He wasn’t concerned. (Laughter.)
But as Army always does, you held the line. Linebackers James Nachtigal and co-team captain Cole Christiansen made a pivotal — really, and, I mean, this was pivotal — fourth down stop in the final two minutes of the game, securing a 17-to-14 win for the Black Knights. It was a tough game. Air Force is tough. They’ve always been tough, Coach. I’ve seen their record.
MR. MONKEN: Not that tough.
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) He goes, “Not that tough.” (Laughter.)
You then won your third bowl victory in three years, tying an FBS Bowl record with an outstanding and astonishing 70 points against a very good team, the Houston Cougars.
In that game, quarterback Kelvin Hopkins dodged defenders left and right in a magnificent 77-yard touchdown run — the longest in Army Bowl history. Where’s Kelvin? (Applause.) Come here, Kelvin. Come here. Boom. These guys are all running for office after this, you know. (Laughter.)
MR. HOPKINS: Sir, thank you very much for having me and my teammates here. We were blessed to have a great season next year — or last year — and we’re looking for a great one next year. So, go Army. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: You’ll be back?
MR. HOPKINS: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: He’ll be back. That’s a good sign. And, Kelvin, I want to just congratulate you because it was a standout performance — capped, really, an extraordinary year — as Kelvin became the first Army player ever to rush and throw for over 1,000 yards in a single season. Wow. That’s great. (Applause.) That’s pretty good, huh? I got to watch you.
But what mattered most was the team’s triumph in one of our nation’s most celebrated athletic events: the Army-Navy game. Did anybody ever hear of it? Mark, did you ever hear of the Army-Navy game? It’s a big deal. I was there. I was there numerous times, but I was there to watch this one.
You took an early lead and held Navy scoreless for three quarters. For four minutes into the fourth quarter, Navy’s quarterback — an outstanding player — was at the seven-yard line getting ready to go into the end zone. He was ready. Right? He was ready.
PARTICIPANT: He was.
THE PRESIDENT: You weren’t ready, but he was ready.
PARTICIPANT: No, we weren’t ready.
THE PRESIDENT: You weren’t ready. In a play that ultimately saved the game, defensive back Jaylon McClinton raced in from the side and knocked the ball loose from an Army recovery — you got it, Army recovery. And I think the name of that player happened to be James Gibson.
Where are those two guys? Come on down, James. (Applause.) Come on. Come on — say — you saved the game, I mean, in all fairness. Boy, they must like you. Do you guys like — you like these two guys, I guess, right? You’re lucky they’re here. Right, Coach?
Say a few words. Go ahead, fellas. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBSON: Just again, thank you for your support and thank you for having us here, Mr. President. You know, it’s been a great opportunity to be here. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Great job. (Applause.) Great job.
MR. MCCLINTON: I’d just like to thank all my teammates. The brotherhood is really special. So, go Army. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Great, Jaylon. You’re so lucky they were in that game, fellas. It could’ve been another story. You could’ve had somebody else here. That would not have been good, huh? (Laughter.) Good job.
That hit stopped a Navy touchdown in its tracks, and Army won by a single score. Jaylon and James, way to go! And I was at the game, by the way.
And, you know, I was so impressed when I was at the game — I mentioned this to the coach and it’s a big deal. I hope it doesn’t become the story, but it is a big story, because I’m going to look at doing a waiver for service academy athletes who can get into to the major leagues — like the NFL, hockey, baseball. We’re going to see if we can do it. And they’ll serve their time after they’re finished with professional sports.
And that’ll make things — can you imagine this incredible coach with that little asset? Because I would imagine that would make recruiting a little bit easier.
MR. MONKEN: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: So we’re going to — on behalf of the coach, who’s a tremendous guy — we’re going to look at a waiver for the service academy. So they’ll serve their time after. I think it sounds good. Right? (Applause.) I think it sounds good.
I’ve always watched. It used to be five years, and four years. And it’s a long time; that’s a long time. Now it’s two years, but it’s another four years — four or five years — that you have to do things. So they’ll serve it afterwards, Coach.
Good luck, Coach. If you win again, which I know you will, you’ll do it without, but good luck. I think it’s a great idea. I think it’s really fair, too.
From 1997 to 2015, Army won only four games against other service academies. Think of that. Now, with your victories over Air Force and Navy — and a lot of great schools and some football powers — you have won five in a row and ended last season ranked 19th in the nation. Think of that.
Coach Monken’s record of success earned him the prestigious George Munger and Vince Lombardi Coach of the Year Awards. And, Coach, I just think it’s an amazing job that you’ve done. And I just — I really want you to come up and say a few words, Coach, because few people have been able to do, in the coaching world, what you’ve been able to do. And you did have that little bit a restriction — some people would call it a lot — and you still always seemed to win.
So, Coach, say a few words, please. (Applause.)
COACH MONKEN: Mr. President, on behalf of the Army football brotherhood, the United States Corps of Cadets, West Point’s Long Gray Line, and all of the brave men and women who proudly serve in the United States Army, United States Army Reserves, and the Army National Guard, we thank you for inviting America’s team here to the White House, to our nation’s capital, once again, for the second straight year, to accept the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, which we consider the most coveted award in college football.
It’s a privilege and an honor for us to be here with you once again. These young men and their classmates in the Corps represent our nation’s very best. Their commitment to put country before themselves is what sets these men apart, and it sets them apart from common men. And it’s the same commitment that they have to each other. Jaylon McClinton mentioned the “brotherhood” and how special that is.
There’s just an incredible loyalty on this team and a commitment to serve this team. And that’s allowed them to experience record-setting success in a program with an already unbelievable football history — the National Championships, and the Heisman Trophies, and the great teams that people talked about. It’s unbelievable to have a team like this join the history of Army football.
This is a tough team and these are tough players — a tough bunch of guys. They fought their way to 11 wins and, as you mentioned, 21 wins in the last two years. Our 20-plus seniors have led a resurgence in Army football.
But what makes me most proud is the commitment that they make beyond the field — the accomplishments still to come for this group of young men, as each of them will serve as officers in the United States Army. As most college football players prepare for upcoming seasons while earning their degrees, preparing them for a career beyond football, ours also prepare to fight our nation’s wars.
In a speech to our Corps, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley said, “You came here to fight, and fight you will.” I love that line. And just as this team fought this year against opponents who wanted to take their place on the victory stand, they’ll fight against those who want to take what’s ours as a nation. And these men — those that stand on the side over here, everybody in a Cadet uniform, all their classmates back at West Point — they’re going to stand in the gap between freedom and those that want to take it from us. And I’m most proud of that, of this football team, and of our Academy.
These young men represent all that our nation expects of an officer and a West Pointer. The best of the best: warriors, gritty, determined, disciplined, resilient. These are same qualities expected in a championship football team, and they are. CIC, Armed Forces Bowl, the Lambert Trophy, and the national champions of toughness — what we call the “Last of the Hard.”
Mr. President, thank you again for hosting this team and this incredible trophy. It’s our great honor to be here as your guests. On Brave Old Army team and beat Navy. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: And I was telling some of the incredible talent behind me — we were taking pictures in the Oval Office, right behind the Resolute Desk. That’s been around for a long time — a lot of great Presidents. And we were talking about our country — how well our country is doing.
And we’ve increased the military budget — when I first came in — from way down to $700 billion, Coach. Seven hundred billion. You could do a good job with that. (Applause.) And then $716 [billion], and now it’s even going up a little bit higher. We’ll soon have the strongest we’ve ever had, even proportionately — the strongest military that we’ve ever had.
And our country, needless to say, is doing fantastically well. We’re setting records — over 100 days of stock market wins, meaning the highest in history. Over 100 days, we’ve had, of stock markets wins.
And our unemployment numbers are the best in 51 years. And for certain groups — African American, Asian American. Women is now 71 years. But the other groups — and Hispanic American — historic lows on unemployment. The history of the country — the best we’ve had.
So we’re very proud to have everybody with us. And I have to say, as President, I have no greater honor than to serve as the Commander-in-Chief of America’s Armed Forces. I’m very proud of it.
I know that all of you are a great football team, but it’s not only a football team; you’re the future in the United States Army. So important. And I’m very proud of a man named Mark Milley, who is sitting right here, because he’s done a fantastic job. And — come here. Stand up, Mark. We’d introduce you, but you don’t like to stand up. He just likes to win. (Applause.) He doesn’t want any — he doesn’t want people talking about him. He just wants to win. Right, Mark? Thank you, Mark, very much. I appreciate it.
When you first entered West Point, each and every one of you pledged to serve our nation after graduation. You represented the best of America, and millions of your fellow citizens admire and respect you. And I just want to thank you all for your selfless commitment to this country.
When he was Superintendent of West Point, General Douglas MacArthur — who was one of the best students in the history of West Point — I always used to hear he was the single best. And I don’t know how you do that. But he was a great student, a great academic, which a lot of people didn’t know. He made athletics a mandatory part of the Academy curriculum and set a clear goal: “Every cadet an athlete.” That’s what he — “Every cadet an athlete.”
Some things you can’t learn in a classroom. And at the United States Military Academy, you push yourself to the limit in body, and mind, and spirit because you play for more than a trophy. The lessons you learn on the football field will help you to lead on the battlefield. And hopefully, we won’t have too many battles, because we’re building a military so strong that nobody’s going to mess with us. Nobody.
When you play for Army, you’re taught the courage to take a hit, the strength to sacrifice for your team, and the grit to fight for every single inch. You give all that you have and you never let up until that mission is done, until you’ve gained that victory.
The Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard — all of the United States Armed Forces are the strongest, toughest, bravest, and fiercest warriors the world has ever known. We have the greatest military, right now, that the world has ever known. And we’re doing some additional things, like for our great veterans. They don’t know — right now, it looks like so far off. But someday, they’ll be veterans. We’re taking care of our veterans like never before.
We just approved, after 44 years — they’ve been trying to get it — Veteran’s Choice. Rather than waiting for days and weeks and months to see a doctor, if there’s a wait, you go right outside; you get to a local doctor, who is a great doctor; we pay the bill and you get yourself fixed up. They’ve been trying to get that, Mark, for 44 years, as you know. And plenty of other things have been passed for our great veterans.
With us today are 28 seniors on the team who will soon graduate, become second lieutenants, and enter different branches of the Army, including Infantry, Armor, Field Artillery, and Air Defense Artillery.
Wherever your country needs you, we know you will serve with integrity, loyalty, honor, courage, and an unbreakable will to win, win, win! We love that sound. Don’t we love that word? That’s a great word. You know it well. Armies always — and this great Army of ours — always fights on to victory. Always.
To the entire Black Knights team: Congratulations once again on your historic victories and keep on that path to just winning and making us all very proud of you. Because we are all very, very proud of you.
So, Coach, I want to congratulate you again. That’s an incredible job. The job you’ve done is like few others. Very few others. And I know some coaches. I know some coaches in other leagues. I know some coaches in the NFL. Jeff, they have great, great respect for you, as a coach and as a man. And I just want to let you know that. (Applause.)
MR. MONKEN: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: You know who I’m talking about, right?
So, thank you all. We’ll take some pictures around that incredible trophy. And we’ll see you very soon. Thank you very much. Thank you all for being here. Appreciate it. (Applause.)