President Obama Speech to Cadets praises military tradition

May 19, 2011, 08:58 by R.E. Christian

Graduates should celebrate their success at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and be ready to meet the nation's "great expectations," President Obama said Wednesday.

The heritage of the Coast Guard "is the tradition that you will carry forward," Obama told the cadets. "And I know that you will do so with the same sense of purpose, the same sense of patriotism that have defined your days at this Academy."

He spoke of his regard for Coast Guard, citing examples of its high standards guardsmen exhibited whether performing duties at the White House, helping citizens face a natural disaster or stationed in Afghanistan.

"Your nation has great expectations as well. We've made an enormous investment to build you into the leaders that you are," Obama said. "Yes, the Coast Guard may be the smallest of our services, and you will be tasked with vast responsibilities -- protecting thousands of miles of coast, securing hundreds of ports, patrolling millions of miles of ocean. But I'm absolutely confident that you will meet these obligations."

Obama addressed an audience of about 1,500 people, including 228 newly commissioned Ensigns.

While the future can't be predicted, "we know that the complex missions asked of our Coast Guard have never been more important," Obama said.

The Coast Guard is being asked to work with other nations to protect ports and shipping lanes, combat piracy and train foreign partners, as well as protect U.S. coastlines from" terrorists from slipping deadly weapons into our ports," Obama said.

He pledged as the nation's commander in chief that the United States "will do everything in our power to help you succeed."

"So, cadets, if we remember this -- if you stay true to the lessons you've learned here � if we hold fast to what keeps us strong and unique among nations, then I am confident that future historians will look back on this moment and say that when we faced the test of our time, we stood our watch," Obama said. "We did our duty."

One graduate, Zachary Ballard, 22, of Altuna, Iowa, called Obama's address to the academy an "incredible honor."

"I feel blessed. Blessed to graduate," said Ballard, who heads to Kodiak, Alaska, to be a civil engineering officer aboard a Coast Guard cutter.

Source: UPI