REP LIEU CALLS ON PRESIDENT TO NOT RISK LIVES OF WEST POINT CADETS BY FORCING THEM TO RETURN FOR SPEECH DURING PANDEMIC

April 28, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) sent a letter to the President urging him not to require graduating West Point cadets to return to school to hear President Trump speak during the COVID-19 pandemic. Doing so, Rep. Lieu argues, could put their lives and the lives of their families at risk.

In the letter, Mr. Lieu writes:

Dear Mr. President:

April 27, 2020

In normal times, the graduation ceremony at our nation’s service academies include an in-person speech by the President or other high-ranking individual. We are not in normal times. We are in the middle of a life-threatening pandemic caused by a highly contagious virus for which there is currently no cure. I respectfully request that you reconsider having the U.S. Military Academy at West Point bring back 1,000 cadets from around the country to New York to hear you speak. An in-person graduation would create unnecessary risk to the health and lives of West Point cadets and those with whom they come in contact during and after their travels.

Due to the pandemic, both the Naval Academy and Coast Guard Academy cancelled their in-person graduations and will hold virtual graduations. As a Member of the Air Force Academy Board of Visitors, I know the Air Force Academy decided to hold an in-person graduation because the senior cadets were already on campus and had been self-isolating for several weeks. West Point is in a different situation. Its senior cadets are not on campus. Bringing 1,000 cadets from around the country to New Yorkthe state with the highest number of coronavirus cases and deathsunnecessarily puts their health and lives at risk, and those with whom they come in contact.

An in-person graduation at West Point would also violate the spirit, if not the text, of current federal guidance to protect Americans and stop the spread of COVID-19. The Secretary of Defense has banned travel, including domestic travel, for military personnel until June 30. Your own federal guidance to states say that schools may not reopen until Phase 2. New York is nowhere even near Phase 1 reopening.

Having served on active duty, I know the military will execute your order to have an in- person graduation to the best of its ability. However, such an order unnecessarily puts lives at risk. I urge you to prioritize the health and lives of 1,000 future Army leaders, and those with whom they come in contact. Please consider giving a virtual speech instead. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Ted W. Lieu Member of Congress