LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - President Donald Trump closed his speech in Louisville on Wednesday by signing an order that will forgive all student-loan debt for many of America’s disabled veterans.
Trump addressed the 75th AMVETS convention at the Galt House hotel in downtown Louisville.
“Every penny of student loan debt (for those) who are completely and permanently disabled," he said. “The debt of these disabled veterans will be erased. It will be gone. You can sleep well tonight. Nobody can complain about that.”
Trump said the measure will help approximately 25,000 disabled veterans, each of whom has an average debt of about $30,000. The news drew by far the loudest applause throughout his approximately 40-minute speech; WAVE 3 News’ David Mattingly said it prompted a standing ovation.
“They’ve made a sacrifice that is so great, and they never complain,” Trump said. "(This will save) hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Every warrior who serves ... we believe their government will show them the same devotion in return."
Presently, the law allows such relief for “totally and permanently disabled" veterans as long as they actively apply for it. Trump’s new measure makes it automatic.
The president began his speech at the annual convention at about 2:35 p.m. Wednesday. He spent the first 10 minutes of his speech offering thank-yous and shout-outs to the crowd of about 2,000 veterans. He even took a swipe at “the fake news" about 20 minutes in, drawing what turned out to be the second-loudest applause point of the day.
“We gather today at a truly incredible time in our nation,” he said. “It’s about time we hear ‘America First.’ You didn’t used to hear that. You hear it a lot now. I hope you don’t get sick of it. We’re respected again as a nation.”
Trump told the crowd that the American military is stronger now than it has ever been.
“If our enemies dare to fight us, they will be crushed by American might,” he said. “We don’t want to have to use it, but we have to have it just in case."
Trump went on to tout some of his accomplishments while in office, including:
+ “We’ve secured a record $8.6 billion for mental health services. That’s billion, with a ‘B.’”
+ “We have reduced the number of unemployed veterans by 37 percent. Veteran unemployment has reached the lowest level ever.”
Trump Lands In Louisville
Air Force One landed at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport at about 1:50 p.m. Wednesday, and about 10 minutes later, Trump appeared and waved to the crowd of onlookers assembled under sunny skies just south of downtown Louisville.
Trump and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin got into a limousine at 2:05 p.m. to begin the short drive, escorted by police, to the Galt House. Following the AMVETS speech, Trump was scheduled to headline a private re-election fundraiser for Bevin at the Seelbach Hotel just a few blocks away.
The presidential motorcade approached downtown Louisville from the south, heading up Interstate 65 at about 2:15 p.m.
WAVE 3 News’ Natalia Martinez reported at about 2:10 p.m. that several protesters had gathered near the Galt House, but things were fairly tame. Not even 15 minutes later, however, the crowd was much larger, and was chanting its opposition messages. Martinez reported there were plenty of Trump supporters and protesters, but one woman seemed to be content to play the role of peacemaker.
“We don’t need to get into any altercations or arguments," Dawn Dennie told WAVE 3 News. "We all have the same constitutional rights to peaceful protest and we should all be able to be out here with our own frame of mind our (and) own opinions without any negativity.”
LMPD tweeted Wednesday that one person was cited in the security detail area:
WAVE 3 News’ Mike Fussell reported that at the Bevin fundraiser later, anyone interested in getting a selfie with Trump will need to cough up $20,000.
Trump’s last official visit to Louisville took place in 2017, when he spoke to a crowd of thousands at Freedom Hall. And while on the campaign trail in 2016, his stop in Louisville led to several lawsuits that were eventually tossed.