NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Donald Trump’s usual off-the-cuff manner and personability was at its best as he addressed the attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.
In the hour and 15 minutes he spoke, Trump rallied the audience around the major victories of his administration thus far, from tax cuts to jobs to the the removal of a record amount of regulations.
“The policy agenda he laid out was really sound, and he humbled himself to give credit to the administration,” senior Razi Lane said. “I appreciated the patriotism in the speech.”
Conference attendees packed the room. They said they were eager to be a part of Trump’s historic visit. Christopher Benton from Jacksonville University arrived at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at 3 a.m. to ensure a good spot at Trump’s 10 a.m. speech.
“I want to be as close as I can to feel the whole Trump effect,” Benton said.
The biggest take away from the speech was Trump’s masterful ability to navigate the discussions over gun violence. He explicitly expressed alliance with his base over the Second Amendment, saying, “There is nobody that loves the Second Amendment more than I do.” However, he quickly followed with a vow to solve the issue of gun violence in schools, something that had traditionally been seen as a conflict with the rights to guns.
“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe community surrounded by a loving family and to have a future filled with opportunity and with hope,” the president said. “Reducing violent crime in America is a top priority for my administration. And we will do whatever it takes to get it done. No talk. We’re going to do what it takes to get it done.”
He even suggested ideas to arm certain teachers who love their students and will protect them in times of danger.
Trump also encouraged people not to allow the victory of the presidency to take away from the need to defend positions in Congress. He called people to bring the same energy they showed in 2016 to the upcoming midterm elections in November.
Both Hans Schundler, a freshman at Georgetown University, and Jake Lyons, president of Georgetown College Republicans, shared their enthusiasm of Trump’s successes so far.
“It is essential in this election to mobilize in 2018 because this is a legislative agenda that has momentum,” Schundler said as Lyons excitedly cut him off and began to speak saying,
“He is appeasing all Republicans right now, trying to get them together, trying to get that coalition that always dominates the midterms.”
Trump appeared to be very genuine and down to earth, even joking, saying, “You don’t mind if I go off script, you know it’s kinda boring,” referring to the teleprompter. At the beginning of the speech, he even joked about the “good-looking man” as he noticed himself on the two large screens, and at one point he even recited a poem to highlight his stance on immigration.
Early in the speech, a man was removed from the room, as he shouted “Traitor!” Schundler and Lyons were seated next to the man before security escorted him from the ballroom.
“He pretended like he was reading a newspaper the whole time,” Lyons said. “When Trump came out and there was a standing ovation, he used that moment to pass out Russian flags with Trump’s name written on them.”
Despite his lighthearted tone for the majority of the speech, Trump had two serious and heartfelt moments. The first was when he announced that the evangelist Rev. Billy Graham, who spoke at a CCA in 1984, will be placed in the rotunda of the nation’s capital starting Wednesday at 11 a.m. for a two-day visitation. He is the first person to receive such honors since Rosa Parks in 2005. Trump expressed that only a few people are so honored to be placed there, and Graham is very deserving.
“This week, we lost an incredible leader…We will never forget Billy Graham. As a young man he decided to devote his life to God, and as a result changed our country,” the president said.
Trump concluded with a brief mention of new sanctions on North Korea that were announced today — they will be the heaviest sanction ever placed on North Korea.
Trump’s parting words left the audience with optimism and hope. Freshman Joy Brower was one of many in attendance at CPAC who were impressed and inspired by Trump’s speech.
“I thought Trump connected very well with his audience,” she said. “He was engaging as a speaker and touched on issues that really matter. I saw him connect emotionally and logically with the issues, not allowing the heat of a moment to affect his judgment.”