Instead of personal defenses, Trump came to Liberty University armed with a message of thanks for evangelicals whose votes helped him prove himself during the elections.
But 81 percent of white evangelical voters cast their ballots for Trump in November, buoyed by his campaign promises to safeguard their religious liberties in a country where they often feel that their rights to express their faith - at work in the public square - have come under attack.
The administration struggled this week to explain the circumstances surrounding Comey's ouster, with Trump on Thursday undercutting the message from senior White House officials that his decision to fire the Federal Bureau of Investigation chief was dependent on a Justice Department recommendation.
In his remarks, Trump drew parallels to his longshot presidential bid.
Trump advised the graduates to "never quit" and to carry themselves with "dignity and pride". In contrast, President Barack Obama gave three commencement addresses in his first year in office.
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Founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell, a Southern Baptist pastor and a co-founder of the Moral Majority, Liberty University is now helmed by Jerry Falwell, Jr., also a prominent evangelical leader and a Trump supporter. For example, he said that in America, people do not worship government.
"The more that a broken system tells you that you're wrong, the more certain you should be that you must keep pushing ahead, you must keep pushing forward", Trump said.
Although Trump is not almost as wealthy as people such as Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, he did apply his hard work and talents to beat 15 Republicans in the primary campaign previous year and then beat media-favorite Hillary Clinton for the presidency.
FILE - In this May 4, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington.
Trump has given the commencement address and he's citing the class of 2017, "dressed in cap and gown graduating to a totally brilliant future".
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He says: "I'm guessing there are some people here today who thought that either one of those things - either one - would really require major help from God. Because it's the outsiders who change the world", Trump said. "Embrace the label", the NY real estate mogul-turned-politician told graduates.
"There's no place in the world that I'd rather be to give my first commencement address as president than here with my wonderful friends at Liberty University", Trump said.
"Following your convictions means you must be willing to face criticism from those who lack the same courage to do what is right, and they know what is right, but they don't have the courage or the guts or the stamina to take it and to do it", said Trump, who did not wear a gown. "Does that sound familiar, by the way?"
"I've seen so many people, they're forced through lots of reasons - sometimes including family - to go down a path that they don't want to go down, to go down a path that leads then to something that they don't love, that they don't enjoy", Trump said.
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