GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump plans to address thousands of young evangelicals on Jan. 18 at Liberty University's first 2016 convocation as students return to campus. This convocation is North America's largest weekly gathering of Christian students, and each year it plays host to more than 80 guest speakers of national significance from every sphere of society, according to the university.
In fact, Trump's name leaps off the university's visual props for this year's schedule of guest speakers.
Liberty University has served as a hub for conservative politics, reports The Washington Post. However, hints are that Trump is attracted to Liberty's president, Jerry Falwell Jr. The current leader of the university has generally stayed out of the political spotlight - unlike his late father, who founded the school. But word on the street is that Trump and Falwell Jr. have been in "close contact" during the campaign, according to News & Advance newspaper.
On a recent Fox News segment, Falwell Jr., a Baptist, said his three favorite presidential contenders are Republicans Trump, Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas). "I think Trump reminds me so much of my father," Falwell Jr. said on the show. "He says exactly what he thinks, no matter what anybody cares."
Jerry Falwell Sr. was an architect of the old Religious Right, and one of the first megachurch leaders to develop a large media following in the 20th century, states the Post.
Most GOP presidential contenders in recent years have spoken at Liberty, usually at its chapel, which is held in a 12,000-seat sports arena and also watched by 80,000 students. The convocation is mandatory for its residential students, reports the Post. The convocation will be open to the public, with a reserved section for residents who want to attend.
Last year, Cruz launched his campaign at Liberty, presidential hopeful Jeb Bush spoke at the school's convocation, and Carson and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders also spoke at the convocation.
Trump's talk to students and faculty at the Lynchburg, Va., the campus will take place just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, a contest in which evangelicals will play a key role.
Trump's address at the university convocation will be his second appearance at what has been called "the Protestant Notre Dame," reports Religion News Service. Trump, who identifies as a Presbyterian, spoke at a convocation in September 2012 along with former GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.
A CNN poll last month found the New York real estate mogul Trump earning 45 percent support from white evangelicals.
Terri Taggart stated "If I was a student there, I would not attend this meeting."
However, Dale Bennett said he thought it is great. "I am a former Flame, and feel he is the best person running to help put America back on track. It is not us to judge or doubt his Christian walk. He isn't politically correct but Liberty is not either. So what's the problem. He is what we need."