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President Barack Obama congratulates a graduate at the United States Naval Academy graduation ceremony in Annapolis, Md., on May 22. (CHARLES DHARAPAK / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — President Barack Obama praised the graduating midshipmen of the Naval Academy's Class of 2009 on May 22 for their willingness to serve at a dangerous time for the United States.
"America, look at these young men and women," Obama said. "Look at these sailors and Marines. Here are the values we cherish. Here are the values that endure. In an era when too few citizens answer the call to service, these Americans chose to serve. They did so in a time of war, knowing they might be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice."
Obama urged the graduates to bear in mind the path set by the academy's alumni and all service members killed in the line of duty, including the five-member crew of an HH-60 Seahawk helicopter that crashed Tuesday off the Mexico coast. He quoted from a speech given by President Theodore Roosevelt at an early Naval Academy graduation: " ‘Remember,' he said, ‘our words of admiration are but as sounding brass and tinkling symbols if we do not prepare to emulate their deeds.' Emulate their deeds. That is what you are called upon to do. And in doing so these past four years you've not only given meaning to your own lives, you've served as a reminder and a challenge to your fellow Americans to fulfill the true meaning of citizenship."
The new officers also should bear in mind that the U.S. must maintain its highest ideals as it faces its worst threats, Obama said. He referenced his speech from Thursday at the National Archives, in which he defended his terror policies and his proposal to relocate some detainees from the prison at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay to the U.S.
Obama delivered his speech at the commissioning ceremony for 1,036 new officers, including 755 Navy ensigns; 267 Marine Corps second lieutenants; one Air Force second lieutenant; and one Coast Guard ensign. Three midshipmen graduated but were not commissioned.
The Naval Academy commencement address was Obama's third at a college graduation and his first at a U.S. service academy. He arrived at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium under thin clouds pulled apart like cotton candy and to an avalanche of reports from a 21-gun salute. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, less than a week into his tenure, attended along with other officers and dignitaries. When the canon salute ended, six Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornets screamed low over the stadium, trailing smoke.
Mabus also praised the midshipmen for their decision to serve and told them their time in Annapolis would always tie them together.
"You share a lasting bond," Mabus said. "It's a bond first forged when each of you sent your letters of regret to West Point. Clearly, this academy harbors exceptional decision makers."