WASHINGTON — The smallest U.S. military service has vast responsibilities in protecting thousands of miles of coast, securing hundreds of ports and patrolling millions of miles of ocean, President Barack Obama said today.
The president addressed 228 graduating cadets and 1,500 military personnel and their families during a commencement speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. Obama praised the cadets’ commitment and dedication to service.
“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,” the president said.
“In you we see the same spirit that has made your service ‘always ready’ for more than two centuries, invoking the English translation of the Coast Guard’s Latin motto, “Semper Paratus.”
“In you we see the readiness that has made the Coast Guard one of our nation’s first responders, leading the evacuation of Lower Manhattan on 9/11 and often being the very first Americans on the scene, from the earthquake in Haiti to the oil spill in the Gulf,” Obama said.
Coast Guardsmen pulled stranded Americans from the rooftops during Hurricane Katrina, the president added, saved desperate migrants clinging to rafts in the Caribbean and even today rescue Americans from the surging Mississippi River.
The Coast Guard Academy, founded in 1876, is the smallest of five federal service academies, with 1,030 cadets enrolled. Like the other academies, it is highly selective and charges no tuition. The academy’s curriculum emphasizes leadership, physical fitness and professional development.
With the impending retirement of the academy’s superintendent, Coast Guard Rear Adm. J. Scott Burhoe, Obama noted that the incoming superintendent, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Sandra L. Stosz, “will become the first woman to lead one of our nation’s military academies.”
This is a tribute to the admiral, the president said, but also “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.”
He commended the class of 2011 on earning the highest grade-point average of any class in the academy’s history and noted the academy’s acceptance of a range of international applicants.
“This academy welcomes cadets from all over the world, including two dedicated young men in your class from the Marshall Islands and Romania,” he said. Obama also acknowledged President Jurelang Zedkaia of the Marshall Islands and King George Tupou from Tonga, who were in the audience.
“They are two of America’s closest partners among the Pacific island nations,” Obama said. “Their citizens serve bravely alongside our forces, including in Afghanistan, and we are very, very grateful.”
Obama told the cadets that the nation, for its “enormous investment” in transforming them into leaders, has great expectations.
“Here at home, we need you to stop those smugglers and protect our oceans and prevent terrorists from slipping deadly weapons into our ports,” he said.
In congratulating the Class of 2011, Obama told the cadets that if they stay true to the academy’s lessons, he is confident that “future historians will look back on this moment and say that when we faced the tests of our time, … we passed our country, safer and stronger, to the next generation.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)