The president traveled to the academy to give a commencement speech and stuck around to salute the graduates one-by-one as they were announced.
That part of the graduation took over an hour. There were nearly 1,000 cadets graduating on Thursday.
Trump said he was told he didn’t have to stay for the rest of the ceremony.
“They gave me a choice. They said, ‘Sir, you don’t have to shake any hands, some people do that.’ Some people do that. Those are the smart ones. They’re out of here.” Trump told the audience, prompting laughter.
“You can shake one hand, to the one person, top of the class. You can shake 10, 50 or 100, and you could also stay for 1,000, OK?” Trump added as the crowd cheered.
During the speech, the president praised the cadets for choosing the Air Force.
“To the nearly 1,000 cadets who will soon become Second Lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force: You could have chosen any school, any career you wanted, but you chose a harder path and a higher calling: to protect and defend the United States of America. I know what you’ve been through, and it’s tougher. But you know what? In the end, it’s better. You’re going [to] see. You’ll see,” he said.
“When you choose the Air Force, you choose the noble road of service and duty and devotion. You choose to break old boundaries, and unlock new frontiers, and live life on the cutting edge.”
“And that is what your time at this great academy has been all about: preparing you to do whatever it takes to learn, to adapt, and to win, win, win. You’re going to win so much. You’re going to get so tired of winning, but not really. Not really. We never get tired of winning, do we?” he added.
Trump said that only 10 percent of the applicants to the academy are accepted and that many people who think about applying choose not to because of how hard it is to get in. Even for those who are accepted, one out of five do not graduate.
“Only the best survive to the very end. And here, under the majestic peaks of the Rockies, you have risen to every challenge, overcome every single obstacle, and proven yourselves worthy of the bars that will soon adorn your uniform,” Trump said.
“You survived BCT, made it to Recognition, and earned your Prop and Wings. You soared in gliders, piloted aircraft, and launched satellites that are now orbiting way, way above us, looking down on us. You performed advanced research, developed new techniques. You honed your skills as cyber operators, and jumped out of planes thousands of feet above the Earth. Not easy. For America’s airmen, the sky is never, ever the limit.”
The president later noted that he approved funding for 56 new Air Force F-35s, a stealth aircraft, in addition to new Reaper remotely-piloted aircraft and 10 new helicopters, among other things.
“We’re also asking Congress to invest more in hypersonic weapons. We have things under development, the likes of which you’ve never seen; the likes of which you can’t even conceive. Artificial intelligence, nuclear weapons and modernization, and space superiority,” he said. “And we’re soon having, as you know, something that I started. And it started a little slow, and now everybody has embraced it: Space Force. And you’re going to be working with them.”