An article yesterday incorrectly reported that Vice President Quayle was booed at West Point's commencement last year. (Published 6/1/ 90)
ANNAPOLIS, MAY 30 -- Vice President Quayle told 990 midshipmen graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy today that, despite democratic elections in Eastern Europe, "the world is still a dangerous place" in need of their services.
Speaking under a cloudless sky at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Quayle credited the Navy with being one of the factors behind the "extraordinary historical events" transforming global politics and praised the graduates for believing in a strong U.S. military.
"We have been surprised this past century by the rise of communism, the rise of Nazism and the rise of radical Islamic fundamentalism," Quayle said. "I am sure we'll be surprised again in the future. Though we may be surprised, let us always be prepared."
Quayle's remarks drew polite applause from the midshipmen and some 25,000 spectators. Speaking last year at West Point's commencement, Quayle was booed by cadets and their guests, who were upset about his having served in the Indiana National Guard during the Vietnam War.
The most enthusiastic reception today was reserved for the academy's superintendent, Rear Adm. Virgil L. Hill Jr., who has come under fire in recent weeks for his handling of the case of a midshipman who resigned after she was handcuffed to a urinal and photographed by eight male classmates.
In the wake of that incident, two congressional committees, the General Accounting Office, the academy's Board of Visitors and the inspector general of the Navy have initiated investigations into allegations of sexual harassment, hazing and academic inproprieties at the academy.
As Hill was introduced today, the entire Brigade of Midshipmen rose to greet him with a thunderous standing ovation. Several midshipmen said later that the gesture was intended to convey their confidence in Hill's leadership.
Their message was received with gratitude. "I needed that," Hill said, smiling.
In a move that surprised some midshipmen, Hill spoke directly for several minutes about the academy's recent controversies, joking about a conversation with a local newspaper editor who reportedly said he hoped Hill did not take the negative publicity personally.
"It reminded me of my hero, Winston Churchill, who met an editor in the bathroom one day who had been giving Churchill a hard time and offered an apology," Hill said. "Churchill said, 'My chap, in the future I would prefer if you would insult me in the men's room and apologize in your newspaper.' "
On a more serious note, Hill told the graduates that he is confident that the lessons they learned at the academy would serve them well and read a poem that he said had given him "great strength in recent weeks."
"People are self-centered, illogical. Love them anyway," Hill read. "What you have spent years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway."
Quayle did not directly address the recent controversy but implored the midshipmen to recognize that "moral values are no less important than technical skills." He said he had been convinced during visits to naval stations and ships that the military needs officers "who understand that leadership is not just a matter of issuing orders, officers who recognize that in order to lead, they must set the standard."
Giving his address a few hours before Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev arrived in Washington for a four-day summit with President Bush, Quayle made no major foreign policy statements. Instead, he devoted the bulk of his speech to the athletic, academic and philanthropic achievements of several individual midshipmen and to highlighting the academy's successes.