Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Obama Delivers Commencement at U.S. Coast Guard Academy

Here's the transcript. I'll post video when it's up.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Please be seated. Well, good afternoon, everyone. Distinguished guests, Governor Malloy and Congressman Courtney, families, friends, and most of all -- well, let’s try it this way. Cadets, what class is this?

CADETS: Class of 2011! (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: I just wanted to make sure.

It is a great honor to be with you as we commission the newest ensigns in the United States Coast Guard. And, cadets, let me say -- and I know your families will agree -- you all look fantastic. (Laughter.)

Thank you, Secretary Napolitano, for your introduction, but more importantly, your outstanding leadership in keeping our homeland secure and -- along with Admiral Papp -- keeping our Coast Guard strong.

And to Admiral Burhoe and Academy faculty and staff, thank you for building these outstanding young men and women into “inspiring leaders of character” who are “prepared to serve their country.” And, Admiral Burhoe, as you prepare to retire in the coming days, I just want to thank you and your wife, Betsy, for 34 years of distinguished service to our country. We are grateful. (Applause.)

I'd just say, by the way, he looks a little younger retired. So -- (laughter) -- you don't want him roaming around the house. Make sure he’s doing something. (Laughter.)

Although my understanding is she’s not here today, I also want to acknowledge your next superintendent —- Admiral Sandra Stosz. She will become the first woman ever to lead one of our nation’s military academies. (Applause.) That’s an incredible tribute to her, but also a tribute to the opportunities that the Coast Guard affords women of talent and commitment, including the Class of 2011, which has one of the largest numbers of women cadets in the history of this Academy.

But, cadets, today is your day. But it’s also a testament to those who supported you every step of your journey. When you chose this life of service, your families backed you up. When you thought you couldn’t go on, they bucked you up. I suspect, when things got a little tight in the money department, they coughed it up. (Laughter.) So, cadets, you are here because of them, and I ask you in joining me in honoring your remarkable families. (Applause.)

I have to say, it is a personal pleasure to be here, because since the day I took office, the United States Coast Guard has played a special role in my presidency and with my family. I’ve seen the Coast Guard’s precision when some of you -- the Class of 2011 -- marched in the parade during my inauguration. You looked pretty good on that day, too. (Laughter.) It was a little colder that day, if you recall. (Laughter.)

I’ve seen your devotion to duty -- all along the Gulf Coast -- when the Coast Guard, including members of this class, worked day and night, tirelessly, as you led the largest environmental cleanup in our nation’s history.

I’ve seen your pride, when I was in, of all places, Afghanistan. I was in Bagram, thanking our troops for their service. And I was giving a shout-out to every service -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines. And then, way in the back of the crowd, a voice shouted out: “and Coast Guard!” (Laughter.) There was no ocean in sight. (Laughter and applause.) Not a body of water visible anywhere. (Laughter.) But the Coast Guard was there, serving with honor, as you have in every major conflict that our nation has ever fought. Read the rest