Obama Salutes Devotion to Duty at Coast Guard Commencement

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)

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