President Obama Delivers Commencement Address at U.S. Naval Academy
Friday, May 22, 2009; 12:19 PM
SPEAKER: PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
[*] OBAMA: Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Please, be seated. Governor O'Malley, thank you for your generous introduction and for your leadership here in Maryland. Vice Admiral Fowler and faculty, distinguished guests, parents, family and friends, the Brigade of Midshipmen -- (applause) -- and most importantly, the graduates of the Class of 2009. (Applause.) Seven hundred and fifty- six Navy and, I am told, the largest number of Marines in Naval Academy history. (Applause.)
Now, I know it's customary at graduation for guests to bring a gift. And I have. All midshipmen on restriction for minor conduct offenses are hereby officially absolved. (Applause.) I did say "minor." (Laughter.)
Midshipmen, I'm told that the extra ribbon on your chest is for the honor you earned, for only the second time in the storied history of the Naval Academy -- the Navy's Meritorious Unit Commendation Award. So I've consulted with Admiral Fowler, and I can make this announcement: For all you midshipmen returning next fall, I hereby grant you something extra -- an extra weekend. (Applause.) I should stop now. (Laughter.)
I am extraordinarily honored to be with you today. Because of all the privileges of serving as President, I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander-in-Chief.
Every day I count on Naval Academy graduates like Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the CNO, Admiral Gary Roughead; and my Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair. I'll also be counting on Ray Mabus, a former surface warfare officer, as our new Secretary of the Navy.
Every day I rely on former sailors and Marines on my staff, young men who served as intelligence officers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the 32nd Commandant of the Marine Corps, Supreme Allied Commander and now my National Security Advisor, General Jim Jones.
I've admired your prowess on the football field. (Applause.) At the White House last month, I was proud to present the team and Coach Ken with the Commander-in-Chief Trophy, which you won for the sixth straight time. (Applause.) And I know you beat Army seven straight times. (Laughter.)
But most of all, most of all I've admired the spirit of your service, because it's not the strength of our arms or the power of our technology that gives the United States our military dominance -- it's our people. It's our sailors and Marines, soldiers and airmen and Coast Guardsmen who perform brilliantly in every mission we give them.
And Class of 2009, today is your day. It's your day to reflect on all you've achieved -- or should I say, all that you endured: the madness of "I Day" that began your transformation from civilians to sailors and Marines; that endless Plebe Summer when you were pushed to new levels, new heights, physically, mentally, morally. And speaking of new heights, I'm told that one of your proudest achievements still stands -- one of the fastest times for the Herndon climb. Congratulations on that. (Applause.)
And families, today is your day, too. It's the latest in a line of proud firsts: the first time you saw your son or daughter with that Navy haircut, that first time you saw them in their summer whites, and today the first time you'll see them as officers.
So to all of you moms and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, and all the local sponsor families who opened your homes to these midshipmen -- thank you for your support and for your patriotism. We are grateful. (Applause.)