Friday, May 22nd, 2009 at 4:07 pm
This morning the President spoke at the US Naval Academy Commencement in Annapolis, Maryland, and reminded us that our military is made up of hundreds of thousands of individual stories, each guided by a common set of values:
(President Barack Obama fistbumps a graduating Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy graduation ceremony
in Annapolis, Md., Friday, May 22, 2009. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
After an era when so many institutions and individuals acted with such greed and recklessness, it's no wonder that our military remains the most trusted institution in our nation. (Applause.) And in a world when so many forces and voices seek to divide us, it inspires us that this class came together and succeeded together, from every state and every corner of the world. By building an institution that's more diverse than ever -- more women, more Hispanics, more African Americans -- the Naval Academy has reaffirmed a fundamental American truth: that out of many, we are one. (Applause.)
We see these values in every one of these sailors and Marines, including those who have already served their country -- the dozens among you with prior enlisted service.
It's the perseverance of Elvin Vasquez, a Marine supply chief in Iraq -- (applause) -- who finally got into the Naval Academy on his third try -- (applause) -- who never gave up trying because he says, "there's just something about being a Marine."
It's the example of Carlos Carbello -- (applause) -- who left the tough streets of L.A. to serve on a destroyer in the Pacific and who has used his time here to mentor others, because he's the oldest midshipman -- the old man -- at the age of 26. (Applause.)
It's the patriotism of Sade Holder -- (applause) -- who came to America as a child from Trinidad, enlisted in the Navy and then earned the titles she values most: "U.S. citizen" and "Navy Midshipman" and today, "Ensign." (Applause.)
And it's the reverence for tradition shown by James P. Heg -- (applause) -- a communications -- a communications maintenance Marine in Iraq who today is joined by the man who first urged him to sign up, his grandfather, returning six decades after he was a midshipman, a submariner from World War II, 89-year-old Captain James E. Heg. (Applause.)
Honor. Courage. Commitment. These are the values that have defined your years in the Yard and that you'll need in the years ahead as you join the fleet, and as you join and lead the Marines, as you confront the ever-changing threats of an ever-changing world.
(President Barack Obama shakes hands with a graduating Midshipman as another graduate reacts to
receiving her diploma at the U.S. Naval Academy graduation in Annapolis, Maryland, May 22, 2009.
Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
Towards the end of his speech, he connected his admiration for their service to the values he espoused yesterday at the National Archives:
Yesterday I visited the National Archives and the halls that holds our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence, and our Bill of Rights. I went there because, as our national debate on how to deal with the security challenge that we face proceeds, we must remember this enduring truth: The values and ideals in those documents are not simply words written into aging parchment, they are the bedrock of our liberty and our security. We uphold our fundamental principles and values not just because we choose to, but because we swear to; not because they feel good, but because they help keep us safe and keep us true to who we are.
Because when America strays from our values, it not only undermines the rule of law, it alienates us from our allies, it energizes our adversaries, and it endangers our national security and the lives of our troops. So as Americans, we reject the false choice between our security and our ideals. We can and we must and we will protect both. (Applause.) And that is just what you will pledge to do in a few moments when you raise your right hand and take your oath.
But that simple act -- by that simple act, you will accept a life of great sacrifice: long deployments, separation from loved ones, tests and trials that most Americans can't imagine. But that is the oath you take, the life you choose, the promise you make to America.
And today, this is the promise I make to you. It's a promise that as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I will only send you into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy and the well-defined goals, the equipment and the support that you need to get the job done. (Applause.) This includes the job of bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end and pursuing a new comprehensive strategy to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Applause.)