At West Point this morning Donald Trump will deliver a speech controversial by its very occurrence and due to tensions between the president and leaders of the US armed forces.
With New York state only beginning its reopening after the coronavirus outbreak, Trump will address graduates at the United States Military Academy, 40 miles up the Hudson river from New York City.
The city has been a global hotspot for Covid-19, recording more than 213,000 cases and more than 21,000 deaths.
Across the US, graduation ceremonies and commencement speeches have taken place online. But the 1,100 graduating cadets at West Point, who had been at home since early March, just before lockdowns began, were brought back to campus late last month.
They immediately underwent coronavirus testing and more than 15 who tested positive were isolated for two weeks before rejoining their classmates.
Some have decried the decision to bring the graduating second lieutenants back to campus to hear the president speak during a public health crisis. A group called Veterans For Peace announced a protest outside West Point’s main gate on Saturday, against what it called “Trump’s dangerous narcissistic Photo-Op Stunt at the West Point Graduation”.
Further strain has been placed on what would normally be one of the showpiece events of US public life by Trump’s pronouncements and actions in regard to widespread civil unrest over the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.
The president both threatened to use active duty troops against protesters and staged a controversial photo op at St John’s church, near the White House, before which peaceful demonstrators were teargassed and attacked by federal officers.
Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the defense secretary, Mark Esper, joined Trump on his walk to the church. Both have said they should not have done so.