Remarks at a Commencement Address at a Hope for Prisoners Graduation Ceremony in Las Vegas, Nevada
Hope for Prisoners Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jon D. Ponder. Thank you, sir.
The President. Good to see you. How long have you been doing this?
Mr. Ponder. Eleven years.
The President. That's fantastic.
Mr. Ponder. Yes, sir. Thank you.
The President. Jon has been doing this for 11 years, and he's done incredible. And so many people have such respect for him and—I shouldn't tell you this. Should I tell it to you now or should we wait? [Laughter]
Audience member. Tell us!
Audience member. Tell us, sir.
The President. So they're all saying: "He's done so well. He's saved so many lives. He's created happiness in so many families." "Sir, would you consider Jon Ponder for a full pardon?"
And I love doing it. [Applause] I love doing it. And we are giving him absolute consideration, and I have a feeling he's going to get that full pardon. I have a feeling. I can't tell you, but I have a feeling. Come here, Jon.
Great gentleman. That's—first thing they said to me when I walked in. And—but everybody knows who you are. I knew who you are. [Laughter] Eleven years of this. That's fantastic. What a tremendous story. Thank you very much. Congratulations. Because I'm going to give him an early congratulations, all right? [Laughter] That's big stuff. That's big stuff. So thank you very much, Jon.
And 2 years ago, I was honored to celebrate your story of faith and transformation as you stood with me in the Rose Garden of the White House. It was a great day, a beautiful day. Now I'm thrilled to come to Las Vegas Police Department. And thank you very much for being—what a group that is. That's some job you guys do. Some job you do. A lot of friends too. A lot of friends. To take part in your organization's Hope for Prisoners graduation ceremony.
We are here to reaffirm that America is a nation that believes in redemption. And that's what it's about: redemption. We believe in second chances. And we want to bring returning citizens, great people—great people—in many cases, great people, and not in all cases.
I'm not going to be too politically correct, fellas—[laughter]—right? Not in all cases, but in many cases. We want to rebuild their lives; they want to rebuild their lives. They want to help us and rebuild our country. And please, everybody, please sit down. [Laughter] Just a little bit late with that one, wasn't it? [Laughter] Thank you. That feels better, doesn't that? Huh?
But to the 29 graduates: You're returning to your families. You have paid your debt to society and shown a commitment to change. You've overcome many challenges: broken free of addiction, learned new skills, and replaced old habits with fresh resolve.
And Jon told us just outside, a little while ago, that it's an incredible class—incredible class of talent. That word, "talent," is very important. And now you have a chance to begin a new chapter that you are proud to call your own. And I have little doubt you're going to be very, very successful. Your future does not have to be defined by the mistakes of the past.
Today we declare that you are made by God for a great and noble purpose, and you understand that. I mean, it's a great and noble purpose. And you're valued members of our American family, and we are determined to help you succeed, and we're going to work with you. And you're going to work with Jon and everybody else in this really incredible place that you've all put together, Jon.
And you're going to be so successful. You're going to say, "I'm going to be more successful than Trump." [Laughter] Going to be more—and I'll be happy if you do it, I'll tell you what. I'll be very happy about it.
But as long as you work hard and follow the law and do your part to contribute to your communities, your best days are just beginning. The best part of your life is beginning. I really believe that. And your greatest years are just ahead.
And to all of the family members and loved ones—who have been through so much—of the graduates who joined us today, we know your journey has not been an easy one, but your love and support make all of the difference. And we are tremendously grateful for the families, the loved ones. And I know they're even more grateful, because without them, you wouldn't be here. [Laughter] You wouldn't be here. So I want to thank you.
And joining us for this ceremony are two leaders who have devoted so much to advancing medical cures to help people overcome the stranglehold of addiction: Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. And they've been great friends of mine for a long time. Stand up, Sheldon. What a family. What a family.
And Miriam is a doctor, a great doctor. She doesn't have to be a doctor. You can trust me: Her husband doesn't need the money. [Laughter] But she devotes her life—it's the most important thing to her—to addiction. And every time she learned something new—and there's still plenty to learn—but she'll call me and tell me what they're learning about addiction.
And the job you do, Miriam, and what you've done, Sheldon, just overall is incredible. And really great. Two great people. Just great people. And they like a place called Israel very much. Would you say that's correct? Maybe I have to use the word "love" a place called Israel, right? In your case.
Thank you as well to Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman for being here. Carolyn, thank you very much. Great, great job. And also, the tireless advocate—because Carolyn has been very much involved with criminal justice reform along with Jared Kushner, who has been very, very much involved. I don't know—I think, Jared, I'm starting—where is Jared? Thank you, Jared. We're going to—he never wants any credit. He does a lot. He works hard. But that's working out very well, Carolyn, isn't it? It's working out well for everybody.
And tremendous support. And we had liberal support; we had conservative report—support. And they came to me, and they needed some help, and we got help from some very unexpected places. Votes. We needed votes. And we got some great people—Republicans in all cases, in this case. But we got some great people to vote for criminal justice reform.
So—in fact, very conservative Republicans. So that was a good sign. Very bipartisan. And it was a terrific thing, and we really—we did something that they've been trying to do for a long time, and we got it done. We get a lot of things done. [Applause] We get a lot of things done.
Now, you see a lot of press back there. So before we go any further, I want to address today's sentencing of a man, Roger Stone. Roger Stone. He's become a big part of the news over the last little while. And I'm following this very closely, and I want to see it play out to its fullest because Roger has a very good chance of exoneration, in my opinion.
I've known—and you people understand it probably better than anybody in the room. I've known Roger Stone and his wife, who's really a terrific woman, for a long time. And Roger is definitely a character. Everybody sort of knows Roger. Everybody knows him. And most people like him. Some people probably don't, but I do, and I always have. He's a smart guy. He's a little different. [Laughter] But those are sometimes the most interesting. But he's a good person. His family is fantastic. He's got a fantastic family. And there's always a reason for that, isn't there?
Roger was never involved in the Trump campaign for President. He wasn't involved. I think early on, long before I announced, he may have done a little consulting work or something, but he was not involved when I ran for President. And he's a person who, again, he knows a lot of people having to do with politics. His whole life is politics. That's what he is.
And it's my strong opinion that the forewoman of the jury—the woman who was in charge of the jury—is totally tainted. When you take a look, how can you have a person like this? She was a anti-Trump activist. Can you imagine this? [Laughter] Now, you wouldn't know about a bad jury. Anybody here know about bad? No? [Laughter] These people know more about bad juries than everybody here, including the sheriff and the mayor and everybody. [Laughter]
They know about bad juries. We're not going to say it too much, so let's not say it in front of more cameras than this. [Laughter] But you're my experts, okay?
No, but this is a woman who was an anti-Trump person, totally. Now, I don't know if this is a fact, but she had a horrible social media account. The things she said on the account were unbelievable. She didn't reveal that when she was chosen.
And she's, I guess, from what I hear, a very strong woman, a very dominant person, so she can get people to do whatever she wants. And she got on, and then she became the foreperson, forewoman, on the jury. And I assume they asked her a question: "Do you have any bias? Do you have any"—she didn't say that. So is that a defrauding of the court? You tell me.
But does this undermine our fair system of justice? How can you have a person like this? Did she delete her social account? And when Roger was determined by the same jury to be guilty before the judge issued a sentence—and he was determined to be guilty—and she started going a little wild. She's very happy. [Laughter] And she started saying things that people said, "That's strange. That's strange." And then, they started looking at it, and how can you have a jury pool tainted so badly? It's not fair. It's not fair.
And you know, it's not happening to a lot of other people, because you could—look, I won't name names, but everybody knows who I'm talking about. What's happening over there? Nobody, nobody. There are people that are even in Roger Stone's basic business of politics that were going to be in big trouble. Well-known people. The biggest people. Big trouble. They were forced to leave their firm.
One man was forced to leave his firm, and he was going to—bad things were going to happen to him the following day. Nothing happened. Nothing happened. He was the biggest; nothing happened. But it happened to Roger Stone, and it happened to General Flynn. And it happened to—I won't name names. [Laughter] It happened to a lot of people, and destroyed a lot of people's lives.
And I'm here to make a fair system. Again, Roger is not somebody who worked on my campaign. I know Roger, but a lot of people know Roger. Everybody sort of knows Roger. And what happened to him is unbelievable. They say he lied. But other people lied too. Just to mention, Comey lied. [Laughter] McCabe lied. Lisa Page lied. Her lover, Strzok—Peter Strzok—lied. You don't know who these people are? Just trust me, they all lied. [Laughter]
You had people that forged documents. You had people that wrote fake dossiers and brought them to the FBI and used people in the Justice Department to get them to the FBI. And these people know—in the front row, you know better than anybody in this room what the hell I'm talking about, probably. [Laughter]
So I'm only responding to you. I'm not even talking to the folks over there. [Laughter] But they get it better than anybody too. A lot of bad things are happening, and we're cleaning it out. We're cleaning the swamp. We're draining the swamp. I just never knew how deep the swamp was.
So if this woman was tainted, I hope the judge will find that she was tainted. And if she isn't tainted, that will be fine too. But I'm not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed upon a President of the United States. I want the process to play out. I think that's the best thing to do, because I'd love to see Roger exonerated, and I'd love to see it happen, because I personally think he was treated very unfairly.
They talk about witness tampering. But the man that he was tampering didn't seem to have much of a problem with it. I think they'd known each other for years. And it's not like the tampering that I see on television when you watch a movie. That's called tampering—[laughter]—with guns to people's heads and lots of other things.
So we're going to see what it is. Maybe there was tampering, and maybe there wasn't. But I can tell you that there was tremendous lying. Really, lying and leaking classified documents. That you don't know about. But they leaked classified documents.
You know, there was a young sailor who took pictures of an old submarine and sent them to his mother and a friend. And they destroyed his life. I let him out. They were considered classified. Now, Russia and China, I guarantee you, have the pictures of this submarine, for a long time. The submarine was, like, 30 years old. They had them in the first year; they didn't have to wait for the 30th year. [Laughter] But this is a famous story. And they had these pictures, and they put him in jail. He sent them to his mother and to his friend. His friend was not interested in what you're thinking.
And there were many other cases where documents were leaked, even accidentally. It's so—classified documents are so important that even if they are leaked accidentally—now, Hillary Clinton leaked more classified documents than any human being, I believe—[laughter]—in the history of the United States of America.
Audience member. That's right.
The President. Right? And she deleted 33,000 e-mails. And she said, "Oh"—and by the way, if you did it: 5 years, maybe more. Okay? But you would never have access to classified. Very few people have access. She deleted 33,000 e-mails. I kept waiting. Because, you know, they can talk Benghazi; they can talk a hundred different things.
What people understand is, when you get rid of this kind of evidence—so the United States Congress said—they subpoenaed her. They wanted to see her e-mails. After getting the subpoena, she deleted 33,000 e-mails. And they said—do you remember this?—"Yes, the e-mails were about her yoga classes, her exercising, and her daughter's wedding." Thirty-three thousand about her daughter's wedding. [Laughter] That must have been the greatest wedding of all time. [Laughter] And nothing happened to her. And yet they'll put a young sailor in an old submarine, with a picture—a couple of pictures—they'll put him into jail. And I pardoned him, because it was unfair that she was able to do it at the highest level, and his level wasn't—what he did was, it was confidential. "Confidential" is a much lower class than "classified." So I tell you this because it's interesting. This is part of our Nation. This is what's going on now.
So I'm going to let this process play out. And we want to have a great and fair court system. And I hope you had a fair and—you know, fair and wonderful court system. But perhaps you didn't. Perhaps you didn't. And if you didn't, we want to straighten it out. But we have to straighten it out also at the top level.
So we had a lot of dirty cops. FBI is phenomenal. I love the people in the FBI. But the people at the top were dirty cops. And if you would have read the report written about Comey—78 pages of kill, with a reference of "Go get him." They really said it: "Go get him." And then, you read about McCabe, and you see what they said. So bad. And we're just waiting. I'm not doing any—I'm just sitting here, standing here, talking to you. We're waiting. [Laughter]
So I just want to let the fake-news media know that—[laughter]—I just want to let them know, because there's few people more dishonest than these people, I will tell you that. [Laughter] And you have some very good ones. A hell of a lot more dishonest than most of you in the audience were. [Laughter]
But I'm going to let the media know that I'm going to watch the process; I'm going to watch it very closely. And at some point, I'll make a determination. But Roger Stone—and everybody—has to be treated fairly. And this has not been a fair process. Okay? Thank you.
So when I ran for President, I pledged to fight for those who have been forgotten, neglected, overlooked, and ignored by politicians in our Nation's Capital. And you understand that very well. For decades, no one was more forgotten than citizens coming out of prison who were ready to go into a brandnew, beautiful start, but couldn't find a job. They couldn't find people who believed in them.
And one of the great things that happened is, I and my administration—and a lot of very talented people that work with me—we created the strongest economy in the history of our country. We have the best unemployment numbers. We have the best unemployment numbers for African American—best in history. Asian American—best in history. Hispanic American—best in history. Our country is booming. We've never done better. It's the best economy we've ever had.
So when people come out—as an example, yourselves. You're going to get great jobs. And I'll tell you the end result—and we do studies on this: People with businesses are going to hire you. They want you more than you want them. This is the first time this has happened. Okay? This is the first time. They want you to do it. And they wouldn't have given you that second chance. We call it "second chance." But they wouldn't have given you that second and, in some cases, a third chance. That's okay. But they wouldn't have given you that second chance. Now they're doing it because they need people, because the economy is so good.
And I'll tell you the end result: Employers are calling. The numbers that we're getting, the respect that you're getting from people that are doing the hiring—they can't even believe it. I had one gentleman, I talked to him—he had seven people came out of prison. He's got seven people working for him. He said, "They're among my best." He said, "They are among my best people." He said, "I cannot believe it."
And you know what? Sometimes, it doesn't always work out. I'm not going to say everybody is perfect because it's not. Nobody is—you take a group, there's always going to be somebody that doesn't work out. But he said: "I can't believe it. They are"—he's got seven now. They've been with him for quite a while. He said, "They are among the best people I have ever employed." He is so happy. It's going to happen with you. It's going to happen with them. What do you think? I think it's going to happen with this group.
So once I came into office, leaders from all different backgrounds asked me to make changes to our criminal justice system. And the more I learned about the issue—a big issue—the more I knew that criminal justice reform was really not about politics. Because you have people that are for and against it on all different levels: Republican, Democrat, conservative, Independent, liberal. Some love it; some don't love it, but they're starting to love it. We're having tremendous success with it. And it's about doing the right thing. Because Alice Johnson—you know, I've really gotten to know her well. And she's like an incredible person. And because of Alice, we're taking in—we've just let out three other people that she knew.
And I say to people, "And you may have references and recommendations when you were—wherever you may have been, frankly. You know some people that were really good people who"—Alice was in for 22 years. She had another 18 years to serve and for a crime, but not that kind of a crime. And I learned about Alice Johnson. And when I learned, it really—you know, it was really something special. She's an incredible woman. She came out of prison. You've seen the whole thing. We actually did a commercial on it. I did the commercial for people to see what this is all about.
She came out—you couldn't hire an actor in Hollywood to have the emotion and the love and the tears and everything. She came out, and she saw her family, who had totally grown up without her. And some big, strong young men. Some wonderful women. Just all family. And she was grabbing them, and they were all hugging and kissing outside of this massive prison wall. And they were just screaming with joy.
It was an incredible thing to see. You couldn't do it. It had to be natural. It had to come from the heart. It had to come from the heart. So it was really—so I say to Alice, and I say to other people, and I'll say to you, and I'll say to you—you're going to have some recommendations. Do you think I'm making a mistake with him? What do you think?
Audience members. No!
The President. Okay. But you're going to have some recommendations. I want your recommendations. Because you have—we have thousands of people in prison that have stories like Alice Johnson. Thousands and thousands of people. And I love doing it. I love doing it. And you know, you can be poor. You can be middle income. You can be rich. It's—injustice is injustice. But you have thousands of people that shouldn't be there. And I love finding those people. So, as you find them, as you really think—but you can't let me down. They've got to be right. [Laughter] Because there are some people you don't want to do this with. You do know that.
I said to Alice: "So, Alice, let me ask you. You have a lot of people like yourself, right?" "Yes." "But you have bad people too, don't you?" "Yes, we do. Some very bad people." I said: "Good, because I wouldn't want somebody to say, 'No everybody is good,' because that's not the case." But she's given us great recommendations, and she's a great woman.
To redress unfairness in the justice system, just over 1 year ago, I led the effort to pass the criminal justice reform. And others had tried and failed. And they didn't try too hard, because they know it couldn't be done, but we got it done. This law rolls back provisions of the really terrible 1994 criminal—Clinton crime law that disproportionately impacted the African American community. I mean, they liked Clinton, but they passed a law that was a disaster. You know that. But we did something about it. They were unable to do it all the way back. We did something about it. And my recent budget provides over $400 million to expand vocational training, drug treatment, and critical reentry programs just like this one. Okay? You know that. He knows it.
By enacting criminal justice reform, we're sending a powerful message to prisoners who have reformed their lives: When you return to society, we are not going to leave you behind. We're not leaving you behind. But now we don't have the excuse of a bad economy. They used to have the excuse: "Well, we can't do it. The economy is no good." The unemployment rates were very high. We're down to 3.5 percent. We're probably going lower. And wages are going up—first time in 21 years. They're really going up, and going up substantially; it's a beautiful thing. If you're, like, in my world, it's a beautiful thing to watch. It's like a picture.
Everyone in this room is here to make sure that you have the support that you need to succeed, thrive, and to never, ever look back. You're not going to look back. We're not going to look back.
And we're joined today by many great pastors and faith leaders—some of whom I know pretty well—who trust the power of prayer and the mercy of God to transform their lives. And I want to thank you all for being here. Thank you. Great, great faith leaders. Thank you. Please stand up. Please stand up. Great. Thank you. Thank you, Father. Great job. I've actually been to a couple of their churches. Thank you very much.
Also with us are employers of many different industries who are here to recruit you. Don't ask for too much. Just take it nice and easy. [Laughter] Don't forget, they want to make a good deal, but you do too. [Laughter] But they want to recruit you for great jobs, and they're here. Who are the people that are looking? Who are the people—the employers? Please. Yes, stand up, please. That's great. That's great. That's great. [Applause] Great. You're going to be happy. You're going to be very happy.
Including the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, who really has done a fantastic job over the years. I've known how hard they work and what a great job they do: Stations Casinos, Martin and Harris Construction, Civil Werx General Contractor, Silver State Transportation, Keolis Transit, and Workforce Connections.
And I want to thank you all. And we have a lot of others outside that are coming in too. And you're going to have a lot of—you're going to have a lot of fun. It's nice to be loved, right? It's nice to be wanted. You're wanted. You're wanted. Finally—yes, you're wanted. Right, Jon?
Finally, we're proudly—really proud to be joined by more than 80 men and women—these people are so incredible—of law enforcement. The job they do—Sheriff—the job. Please stand up. You don't know how much people respect you. You don't hear it. You don't hear it. People respect you like you wouldn't believe. So we just want to thank you all. The job you do is incredible. Law enforcement. We honor your selfless service and bravery.
By the way, fire department, also. I just left an area of the country where two firemen were just killed and—terrible—up in a certain portion of a beautiful place in California, where a building collapsed. Two people killed. Two firemen killed. And we honor them. And we—this took place yesterday. But they're fantastic.
But I want to thank law enforcement because the job you do is incredible. And the respect that people have for you—you'll never—you'll never know how strong it is. It's strong, and I think it's stronger now than ever before.
And now you have an administration that loves you, backs you. We give you the equipment that you need. We give billions of dollars of equipment. We had surplus equipment—military equipment, incredible stuff—sitting in hundreds of warehouses all over the United States. And, for some reason, other people didn't want to give it out. But I gave it out, and I assume you got some of it. Right? You got some of it? I know the man. He probably got most of it, right? That's good. It keeps you safe.
As you know, Hope for Prisoners has pioneered a mentorship program with law enforcement, which has given strength and support to former inmates like Lois Hockersmith. And she joins us today. Lois. Where is Lois?
For many years, Lois struggled with addiction. In May of 2012, she found herself pregnant and in jail. After she served her time, Lois participated in Hope for Prisoners program. She graduated in 2013. And since then, Lois has stayed totally sober. She's earned back custody of her precious, beautiful son. And she is one of the best case managers here at Hope for Prisoners. Is that right? That's good. That's good. Thank you. Wow. Come on up, here, Lois. Come on up here.
Through it all, Lois has been encouraged by her mentor, who is the same officer who arrested her nearly 8 years ago—Lieutenant Steve Riback, who also joins us today. Hey, Steve, come on up. Is Steve here? Steve is here? Steve, come up. Thank you.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lieutenant Steve Riback. [Inaudible]
The President. Well, we're with you a hundred percent. It's great.
Please, would you like to say something?
Hope for Prisoners case manager Lois Hockersmith. Yes. So, first of all, I want to thank this officer. He saved our lives that night that he arrested me and my son. He arrested me. [Laughter] I was pregnant with him, and I gave birth to him that night. And not all our heroes wear capes; some wear badges. Had he not been doing his job that night, I wouldn't be here.
Jon Ponder, listen, we've been through a lot of things together: 2012—that's when I went through the program, and my life changed that day. I am standing in front of the President. A little bit nervous. [Laughter] Wow.
I just want you to know that I'm standing amongst heroes, but you guys—if it wasn't for you guys to come back in and for being able to pour back into you—this is how I keep it: by giving it back to you guys. Thank you. And thank you, Mr. President.
The President. Thank you. Take care of mom, right? So beautiful.
Would you like to say thing? Please. [Laughter] He feels very comfortable, you can see.
Lt. Riback. I had a well-prepared speech for this. [Laughter] The credit, a hundred percent, goes to Lois. And, to be completely candid, I was doing nothing no different than I had done for years and years that night. I definitely believe it was divine that we came across each other. But the credit goes to her, the credit goes to Jon, the credit goes to you guys as hopefuls.
And I just wish you a tremendous amount of success in the rest of your life. It's only forward at this point. And you have an incredible team, an incredible community, and I'm so honored to be a part of it. But, again, the credit goes to these people right here. Thank you.
The President. That was a good job. That was a good job. Wow. He did okay, fellas, right? [Laughter] He did okay. He did a great job. Thank you both, Lois and Steve.
You remind us, really, that—all of us—that anything is possible. And Lois is among the roughly 100 Hope for Prisoners alumni here today, all of whom are doing incredibly well. Please stand. Please stand, all of the alumni. Wow. That's great. [Applause] That's great. That's great. Great. Congratulations. Thank you very much.
But they're really a testament to the bright future that awaits you all. It's a great time in our country in so many ways. Our military is strong; our country is just strong. We're stronger in, I would say, just about every way than we ever have been before—militarily. You take a look at what we're doing with the stock market, we've had 144 out of 3 years—I've been here just a little more than 3 years. And in a little more than 3 years, Jon, we've had 144 stock market records.
Now, that's good for everybody. It's good for your 401(k)s, and it's good for jobs. And it's good for—those are the ones that I think about first: jobs, 401(k)s. And people are making a lot of money, and people are getting tremendous—you'll be investing some of your money in this now. You'll be doing fantastically well, and you're going to have 401(k)s or something—the equivalent. And you're going to do fantastically well.
And you know, as I say sometimes in speeches: The best is yet to come. We have tremendous potential. We have just made some incredible trade deals that will soon start kicking in. It's going to make it a different country, economically. As good as it does, it's going to be much better.
We had horrible, horrible deals, or no deals at all, and now we have phenomenal deals. We made a massive deal with China. Then, we did the USMCA; that's Mexico, Canada. We did a 40-billion-dollar-a-year deal with Japan, and we did a deal with South Korea, and we have other deals too. And I'm going to India next week, and we're talking about—you know, they have 1.5 billion people, and Prime Minister Modi is number two on Facebook. Number two. Think of that.
You know who number one is? Trump. Do you believe that? Trump. Number one. I just found that out. The head of Facebook, Mr. Zuckerberg, came in 3 weeks ago. He said, "Congratulations." I said, "On what?" He said, "You're number one on Facebook." I said, "That's cool." [Laughter] Number one on Twitter too. But that's because—[laughter]. True.
And if I wasn't, I could never say it because it would be breaking news that—[laughter]—that Trump told a fib. No, number one. And I congratulated Prime Minister Modi. I said: "But you know, you have 1.5 billion people. I have 350 million. You have an advantage."
But we're going to India, and we may make a tremendous deal there, or maybe we'll slow it down. We'll do it after the election. I think that could happen too. So we'll see what happens. But we're only making deals if they're good deals, because we're putting America first. Whether people like it or not, we're putting America first.
So to help you find housing, jobs, and support, I established, as you know very well, the Council on Crime Prevention and Reentry. They've done a fantastic job. And here with us today are new executive director, Tony Lowden. Tony, would you just come up and say a few words, please? Tony Lowden. Thank you, Tony.
He looks good. [Laughter] Hi, Tony.
Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry Executive Director Tony Lowden. Thank you, sir. To God be the glory. Listen, this is what reentry looks like: when our law enforcement, our returning citizens, our faith community, businesses in our community, along with their children, can come together in a holistic approach and bring us together, under this President, has showed America what reentry looks like.
They say, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." [Laughter] But I want to tell you that, today, the entire world have been put on notice that here, Jon, under this President and our administration, this will no longer be a secret. This will be the norm for America. God bless you.
The President. Thank you, Tony. Wow. Beautiful. Thank you, Tony. Wow. That's great. Respected guy. For too long, citizens with a record were not even considered for jobs—you know that—even if they were qualified, rehabilitated totally, and ready to go to work. They wanted to go to work. But all of that is changing.
And we began a nationwide campaign to encourage businesses to expand second-chance hiring. We call it "second chance" hiring. When we say "hire American," we mean all Americans. All Americans. And our entire Nation wins when citizens with a record have a chance to succeed.
It's such a tremendous—what's happened over the last 3 years is incredible. People came out, they didn't have a chance, and now they're not only having a chance—you're going to see it a little while when these guys try and make a deal. [Laughter] "I want a little bit more. Get me a little bit more." [Laughter]
Together, we're rebuilding the most prosperous economy and the most inclusive society, Jon, ever to exist. We have—becoming a very inclusive society, much more so than in the past. And a lot of people haven't figured that out yet, but I think they will. I think people are going to figure it out pretty soon.
We want every citizen to join America's unparalleled success and every community to take part in America's extraordinary rise. Since my election, we have created 7 million new jobs. The unemployment rate has reached the lowest rate in over 51 years. Think of that: 51 years. Half a century.
And by the way, the 7 million jobs, they thought it might be 2 million, if we're lucky. You go back 3 years, they were saying "2 million." We did 7 million, and it's pretty amazing.
African American poverty has declined to the lowest rate ever recorded. But I think one of the things we're most proud of in this incredible economy—we'll call it "Trump economy." Call it—we'll call it the "Ponder economy." We'll call it something. [Laughter] But whatever we call it, this economy has been great. And the thing that might be the best of all is what we've done with criminal justice reform. I really think so.
Our jobs market is so strong that businesses are recruiting the former prisoners off the sidelines in, by the way, record numbers. Record numbers. Never happened anywhere even close to these numbers.
We know that having a job gives you the best chance to work hard, to earn the paycheck, care for your families, chase your dreams, and succeed. Through our Pledge to America's Workers, spearheaded by a very famous young woman—did you ever hear of Ivanka? [Laughter] She did. She's—she said, "Daddy, I want to help with jobs." I said, "Well, I'll put you here, there." "No, no. I want to help with jobs. I want to get people jobs. They have to be trained. They have to be"—so she had a goal of 500,000 jobs. That's a lot—half a million jobs. She just broke, Jared, I guess—is Jared around? She just broke—Jared Kushner—she just broke—the father of criminal justice reform. He really is. I mean, he works so hard. And Ivanka just was broke 15 million jobs. Fifteen. Mayor, that's good, right?
And this is where they train the people in the companies. The government can't do this. Walmart took a million people. Think of it. These big companies take—and they train them. It's very complicated stuff, with computerization and all of the things you have to learn. That's not for government.
Fifteen million people taken by many of the biggest companies, but also midsized companies, even some smaller. But she broke 15 million people about 2 weeks ago. And her goal was 500,000 people over a fairly long period of time. Fifteen million. But if you know Ivanka, you're not at all surprised. [Laughter] Believe me. I wasn't surprised. I was sort of saying, "So what else is new?" To every returning citizen here today, I know that there are some in our society who want to tell you what you can't do. They're going to tell you what you can't do. It's one of the reasons I wanted to be here. I wanted to say what I had to say to Jon too, because I sort of had that on my mind for a long time—actually, the first time I met him.
But they want to tell you what you can't do. They want to tell you why you can't succeed; no way you can succeed. You don't want to listen to them, because you're proving different. They want to say why you can't make it in this country, why you can't make it in any country. They think you're not going to make it, period.
But do not believe those voices for one second, because I'm here today because I believe in what you can do. You're going to be incredible. You're going to be incredible. You're going to see it, and it's going to go quickly.
Each of you is a citizen of the greatest country on Earth. There is more opportunity, more equality, and more potential in America today than in any society in the history of the world. It's true. This is the country where anyone can make a comeback. We made a comeback with our country. We call it the "great American comeback." This is the great American comeback, and you're doing the same thing. This is a nation where anyone can rise. And this is the time when anyone can reach for the American Dream. That beautiful American Dream. That's what you're doing.
And whenever you have any doubt, whenever the road gets tough—and it will; you'll have those days. I've had those days. [Laughter] I mean, I didn't do anything wrong, and they impeached me a few weeks ago, right? They impeached; I said: "What happened? What did I do?" Ay yai yai. [Laughter] You think that was fun? Mayor, you think that's great to be impeached? The good news: My numbers went through the roof. I mean, you explain—explain this to me. [Laughter] Explain this to me.
But you'll have those days, right? You're going to have those days. But you're Americans, and you're great Americans. And Americans meet challenges. You defy expectations. You never give up. You never lose faith in the redeeming power of Almighty God.
And from this day forward—I'm here, I'm the President. I don't have to do this. I could be someplace else. But I wanted to be here, and we—I had plenty of choices. One thing as President—the mayor can tell you—we have plenty of choices. Right? We have a lot of choices. I wanted to be here.
But I ask each of you to seize your unlimited future. If you do, you will make the most of your incredible newfound freedom. You're pioneers in a way, because you're at a point in the country when it's just all come together. You will unlock your unique talents and skill and aspirations. You'll join a great project of national renewal.
And together, we will make our country stronger than ever before. Thank you very much for being here. God bless you, and God bless America.
Thank you. Thank you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 11:57 a.m. at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department headquarters. In his remarks, he referred to Sheldon G. Adelson, chairman and chief executive officer, Las Vegas Sands Corp., and his wife Miriam; White House Senior Adviser Jared C. Kushner; political consultant Roger J. Stone, Jr., and his wife Nydia; former Memphis City Schools Board President Tomeka Hart, in her capacity as jury foreperson in the Federal prosecution against Mr. Stone; Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Undersheriff Kevin C. McMahill; Amy Berman Jackson, judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia; former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn; former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James B. Comey, Jr., and former Deputy Director Andrew G. McCabe; Lisa Page, former legal counsel to former Deputy Director McCabe; former FBI agent Peter P. Strzok II, in his former capacity as lead investigator of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's use of a private e-mail server and the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 Presidential election; comedian and former radio host Randy Credico; Kristian Saucier, a former U.S. Navy sailor who pleaded guilty to taking photographs of classified areas inside the USS Alexandria while it was stationed in Groton, CT, in 2009, and was pardoned by the President on March 9, 2018, and his mother Kathleen; Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former Secretary Clinton and former President William J. Clinton; Memphis, TN, resident Alice Marie Johnson, whose lifetime prison sentence was commuted by the President on June 6, 2018; Miami, FL, resident Judith Negron, Odessa, TX, resident Crystal Munoz, and Lubbock, TX, resident Tynice N. Hall, whose prison sentences were commuted by the President on February 18; Porterville, CA, Fire Department firefighters Ramon "Ray" Figueroa and Patrick Jones, who were killed fighting a fire at the Porterville Library on February 18; Jamel Colbert, Jr., son of Ms. Hockersmith; Mark E. Zuckerberg, chief executive officer, Facebook, Inc.; and Adviser to the President Ivanka M. Trump.
Donald J. Trump, Remarks at a Commencement Address at a Hope for Prisoners Graduation Ceremony in Las Vegas, Nevada Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/340091