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)