Bush Issues Challenges to Naval Academy Graduates
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ANNAPOLIS, Md., May 27, 2005 President Bush issued two challenges today to newly commissioned graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy: Defeat the terrorists who want to destroy "what we stand for and how we live," and transform the military into a fighting force capable of defeating future adversaries.
Duane Gross, a former enlisted Marine about to be commissioned as a Marine second lieutenant, said he is anxious to return to the force. DoD photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The world is far different today from four years ago when Bush last addressed the academy's graduating class, he noted during today's graduation and commissioning ceremonies here at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
"When I spoke to the Class of 2001, none of us imagined that a few months later we would suffer a devastating attack on our homeland or that our nation would be plunged into a global war unlike any we had known before," he said.
The United States is pursuing a clear strategy for victory, Bush told today's graduates.
That strategy, he said, involves "using every available tool to disrupt terrorists and their organizations" and "taking the fight to the enemy abroad so we do not have to face them here at home." It also involves denying terrorists sanctuary and making it clear that the United States won't tolerate those who support them, and ensuring that terrorists don't get access to weapons of mass destruction, Bush said.
At the same time, the nation is stopping terrorists from achieving their ideological goals by spreading the hope of freedom and reform in the Middle East, the president said.
"Thanks to our men and women of the United States military, our strategy is working," Bush told the crowd. "We are winning the war on terror."
The president outlined major successes since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001:
- Brutal regimes that supported and harbored terrorists have been removed from Afghanistan and Iraq, and 50 million people are now liberated;
- Afghanistan and Iraq have both chosen leaders in free, democratic elections, and their successes are inspiring others in the broader Middle East;
- Libya has given up its chemical- and nuclear-weapons programs and long-range ballistic missiles;
- The Proliferation Security Initiative is helping stop shipments of weapons of mass destruction on land, at sea and in the air; and
- Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are "on the run," their communications, planning, training and financing disrupted.
Terrorists "now spend their days avoiding capture, because they know America's armed services are on their trail," Bush said. "And we will stay on their trail."
The United States will remain on the offensive, he said, noting the impressive contributions previous Naval Academy graduates have already made. The Class of 2005, "the future leaders of the Navy and Marine Corps," will now build on those contributions, he said.
"You are now part of the greatest force for freedom in the history of the world: the armed forces of the United States," Bush said. "This is your generation's moment. Your mission is necessary, and it is noble."
"Bring honor to the uniform, security to our country, and peace to the world," the president challenged the graduates. "Now the task is in your hands."
As they carry out that mission, Bush encouraged the new officers to bring a spirit of creativity and innovation to their careers so they can help pave the way for sweeping changes taking place within the military.
He vowed to ensure they have the tools they'll need to succeed as they help shape the military of the future, capable of facing off emerging threats.
But as they observe dramatic changes taking place around them, the president told the midshipmen that one thing won't change: "the character of our men and women who wear the uniform."
The new graduates, who entered the academy just two-and-a-half months before the Sept. 11 attacks, said they were inspired by the president's message and anxious to start their military careers.
McIntosh Ewell said the terrorist attacks underscored what he and his fellow midshipmen had come to the academy to accomplish. "Everybody had a real understanding of what we were here for," he said. "It brought everything into focus."
As a Navy officer, Ewell said, he hopes to play a part in maintaining a strong U.S. military, something he said will help ensure a more peaceful world in the future. "That's why I came to the academy," he said.
Cynthia Ongjoco, who will report after graduation to Pensacola, Fla., to train as a naval flight officer, said she's looking forward to putting her education into practice in support of the war on terror. "It's our job, and I can't wait to be doing it," she said.
Duane Gross, who was a sergeant in the Marine Corps before attending the Naval Academy, said he's ready to put his experience and training to work as quickly as possible, hopefully on the front lines.
"I have a lot of experience that I think I can contribute, and I'm ready to do it," said the new Marine Corps second lieutenant.