The banners are up – and so are the barricades – as Liberty University welcomes graduates, their families and President Donald Trump to campus this weekend.
“It’s historic – 50 years from now, I get to tell my grandkids that the president came to speak at my college when I graduated,” said Jonathan Murray, one of the students graduating this weekend.
Murray said he voted for Trump but would be excited for any sitting president to speak at his graduation.
“It wouldn’t matter if it was Hillary or Trump – if they’re coming to speak at Liberty, that’s awesome,” he said.
“I think it’s an honor,” said Christopher Murray, Jonathan’s brother. “And it just really shows a lot of support to the graduates.”
Others said they are not as happy about Trump’s upcoming visit.
“I’m not really too fond of our president,” said Sean Carter, a brother of one of the graduates.
Carter said he did not support Trump in the election and would have picked someone else if he was choosing the commencement speaker. But he said he is still excited to see the president.
“He has the right to be here,” Carter said. “He’s our president. And I’m pretty sure he has something valid to say and good things to say, but he’s not at the top of my list to see.”
Students we spoke with said reaction on campus to the choice of keynote speaker has been mixed. But many said they hope everyone keeps an open mind.
“Everybody has the right to say what they would like to say, so I think just maybe listening,” said Tanita Silversmith, one of the graduates. “You don’t have to agree or disagree, but just listening to what he has to say.”
“I think they should support the office and what he stands for, and he’s part of our country, and we should support that,” said Tracey Thomas, whose husband is graduating this weekend.
“I hope he just gives us a little bit of hope ’cause it’s tough out there,” Jonathan Murray said.
University officials say they are expecting a big crowd at Saturday’s commencement. According to officials, the university knocked down locker rooms to add 8,000 extra seats in Williams Stadium.
A lot of extra security is expected at commencement, according to Liberty University. There is a clear bag policy at Williams Stadium; small clutch purses will be allowed.
The university says 55 free transit buses will be running. Gates to Williams Stadium open at 6 a.m. Officials urge those attending to get there early.
According to Lynchburg Police, traffic backups are expected, and some roads will be closed due to the presidential visit.