United States Coast Guard Academy New London, CT May 19 11:46 A.M. EDT
Mr. Secretary, thank you. Hello, Coast Guard Academy. I tell you what — we're going to speak for about four hours to see if those white uniforms last longer to keep the heat away than these poor guys in their graduation gowns here. God, love you. I thought I was hot in a blue suit. (Laughter.)
Governor Lamont, it's good to see you, man. You've been a good friend a long time.
And I understand the senior senator from this state for a long time, Chris Dodd, is here. I don't know where you're — I don't — I don't think you're in the class, Chris. But you're one of the — where is he? Chris, welcome, pal — one of the finest men I've ever served with in my whole career.
And Mayor — Mayor Passero, I — I want to thank you for being here. Thanks for the passport into town.
And I want to thank, again, the Secretary Mayorkas for joining me today as well. He understands — he understands well how vital the Coast Guard is to our economic, our environmental, and national security, and how central you are to our Homeland Security mission.
Admiral Schultz, congratulations on a — an outstanding new corps of officers.
This past year, there can be no doubt the Class of '21 is ready for whatever its mission may be.
I know this day is doubly important to the Admiral because he's not only the Commandant of the Coast Guard — well, let me say it another way: In 2013, I think, I gave the commencement here, and I was pointing out how the Coast Guard was adapting so rapidly to changing conditions. And I said, "This is not your father's Coast Guard." I take that back. (Laughter.) First-Class Eric Schultz, this is your father's Coast Guard. (Laughter and applause.)
And I know it probably embarrasses you to be — to point you out and say that, but I had a son in the United States military. He was very proud. He was a major in the U.S. Army. He won the Bronze star. I guess — anyway, when he went to Iraq for a year, he had the — he got the general to agree to change his name from "Biden" to "Hunter," his mother's maiden name, because he didn't want to be viewed as having getting any favor — have gotten any favors.
Admiral Kelly, I want to thank to you and the entire staff of the Academy for your commitment to training the next generation of leaders.
And I brought with me a former Academy grad, who now serves as my Coast Guard Mil Aide, Lieutenant Commander Jayna — now, I'm going to embarrass her — Jayna McCarron, of the Class of 2007. As we were coming in on Marine One, I thought she was going to light up like a candle. She's so excited being back here. She's an outstanding reflection of this institution.
And Admiral Kelly, I want to congratulate all of you on everything you've done this year to keep this school open and running, and to be as safe as it possibly can and could be in the middle of a pandemic.
You know, the instructors; the cadets; the cafeteria; the support staff; public works; the campus safety team; the science department; the medical staff; the Morale, Well-Being, and Recreation team — everyone went above and beyond the normal call of duty to try to make it work, and you did.
And I hear that Mrs. Paula Springer's cookies for cadets were particularly a boost in morale.
And what you all — what you all achieved together embodies the Coast Guard creed: "Always ready." "Always ready."
I want to thank you. I want to thank you, Cadet Steyller — excuse me — Seyller — for speaking on behalf your class. And congratulations on earning the honor of being the Class of '21's Distinguished Graduate.
But most importantly, I want to thank your parents and families for everything — everything they have done to support you, and all of you — and I'm going to — and those watching online as well. There's — not all can be here.
You've raised these cadets to be fierce patriots as well as young people of incredible courage and determination. You were the ones who first installed in them the sense of service, who helped them hear the calling of a higher duty. So, it's your day, too.
Cadets, stand up, turn around, and salute your parents. (Applause.) Get up. Up, up, up. (Applause.)
I tell you what, all those parents watching on television, you raised a fine, fine, fine group of women and men.
Cadets, you knew when you chose the Academy you were choosing a more difficult path than some of your high school classmates. You were signing up for the honor of service, and the additional responsibilities that go with it.
But I hope today you take the time to reflect on how much all of the hard work and extra — extra effort you engaged in was worth. And I hope that you take immense pride — immense pride in all that time at the Academy and all the Academy has given to you.
Because you've achieved something few others can claim: You survived R-Day and Billet Night. You made it through Swab Summer. You got a haircut that showed every damn bump on your head. (Laughter.) You learned to square the corners and square your medals — look, your meals, I should say.
And you memorized — and this the part I found would have been hard — memorized Running Lightning [Light]. I'm going to ask you all to stand up and repeat it. No, I'm only kidding. (Laughter.)
You earned your shoulder boards and your aiguillettes. You passed through 100th week, and maybe spent a little too much time at the Slice. (Laughter and applause.) You can clap. Come on, man. You're moving on. Show a little courage. (Laughs.)
And then, like all the students across the country, you had to figure out what it meant to finish your second-year class [second-class year] in virtual ins- — with virtual instruction.
The pandemic upended so much of our lives. As was mentioned several times so far, last year's graduating class didn't get to have this ceremony in-person. But the Coasties fashion that you all have — you met the threat head on.
You adapted, showed your resilience, and you led. The class of '21, you were the ones to test and improve the restricted movements protocols that allowed you to return to class on campus. And with careful precautions and regular testing, you were able to go back to your lives and training here in New London, to conduct your first-year class [first-class year] in person.
It certainly looked and felt different, I'm sure. But you found ways — you found ways to keep many of the Academy's traditions alive, and maybe even formed a few new ones. You still were able to bring your cars on campus; you just weren't allowed to go anywhere in those cars. (Laughter.)
Man, I tell you what, I'd have trouble watching my car sit there. But maybe dipping your ring in Crown Park or having your Ring Dance outside will be a new standard. The Super Bowl of Inter-Company sports may become an annual event.
And by the way, congratulations to Bravo Company, by the way, for — on your victory. You can clap. It's okay. (Applause.) Even if you lost, you got to clap.
And though everything you found — through it all, you found ways to excel in the classroom and athletics. You've got nine All-Americans in your ranks today, including a recordsetter in the track and field 5,000 meters.
And most importantly — most importantly, you had each other's backs. When times got hard, you were there for one another. That's something you all learn quickly at the Academy.
You can't crew the Tall Ship Eagle without working together; it's not possible. So, the pandemic didn't change that, but it made it more important.
I know we wish more of your loved ones could be here today to celebrate with you in person, packed into the stands for your big day, especially because so many of you come from families of proud traditions of service.
First Class Rachel Piche is about to become the third-generation Academy grad. Meanwhile, First Class Jacquelyn Tidd bucked a long tradition in her family and joined the Coast Guard over — came to the Coast Guard Academy over the Naval Academy, unlike her mother, father, uncle, and grandfather.
Well, Cadet Tidd, there's a seat on Air Force One if you have to get home. (Laughter.) It may be tough. I can only assume that you will enjoy educating your family about how the Coast Guard is, quote, "The hard nucleus around the Navy forms in times of war." (Laughter.)
You are a quiet — you're a really dull class. (Laughter.) I mean, come on, man. Is the sun getting to you? (Laughter.) I would think you'd have an opportunity when I say that about the Navy to clap, but — but being here together — (applause).
But all kidding aside, being here together is a victory in and of itself. An important marker in the progress we've made to turn the tide of this pandemic. It's a testament to the skill and military discipline and sense of responsibility you already embody. So there is no doubt in my mind that the 140th graduating class of the United States Coast Guard Academy will reflect — will reflect the very best of our country in the proudest tasitions [traditions] of our service.
Look, just a — and, in just a few minutes, you'll be ensigns in the U.S. Coast Guard. But the only Anchor Cadet is the only one going home with 240 bucks in his pocket. (Laughter.)
And before — before I go much further, as your Commander-in-Chief — I've been looking forward to being able to do this for a long time; I want to you to — I want to keep a longstanding tradition that — and here it goes: I hereby absolve all those serving restrictions of minor infractions — absolved.
Now, you have no idea how much I wish I had been able to do that at my graduation — (laughter) — at my graduation — (applause) — from the University of Delaware. Because I need — as we say in my faith, I needed absolution. (Laughs.) You all think I'm kidding. I'm not. (Laughter.) Minor infractions like using a fire extinguisher to hose down an RA, but other than that, nothing much.
Look, cadets, today you're joining a chain of service that links each of you to our history. It's a connection to the very earliest days of our nation as part of this country's oldest, continuous seagoing service.
But no class gets to choose the world into which it graduates, and demands and the challenges you're going to face in your career are going to look very different than those who walked these halls before you.
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