[Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy Vice] Admiral [Rodney] Rempt, I thank you for that very, very kind introduction. And we all thank you for your strong leadership of America’s Naval Academy.
Mr. President, distinguished guests, Midshipmen, moms and dads, friends and family and, last but not least, the Class of 2005:
It’s been four years since we both reported to the Navy in 2001—you to the Academy and me to the Pentagon. And we’ve come a long way together. The 24th of May, 2001 was my second day as the Secretary of the Navy and I stood at this very podium and introduced the commencement speaker for the Class of 2001, who was none other than President George W. Bush—same occasion, same place, but a vastly different world. So much has changed since that commencement four years ago and that fateful September day that followed.
On that fateful day, the day that none of us will ever forget, and in all the days since, Americans have been blessed to have our magnificent military and President Bush as their Commander in Chief. [Applause.]
Mr. President, under your leadership, the Class of 2005 has seen brave Americans respond to September 11th—men and women who defend our country against one of the most brutal and determined enemies that has ever threatened our nation.
On your watch, Mr. President, a new generation of Americans has taken its place in an unbroken line of valor to protect and defend us against that threat.
Today, we see terrorists on the run. And we see freedom and democracy on the march in Afghanistan and Iraq and throughout the Middle East.
The firm resolve, the steady vision and the strong leadership of our Commander in Chief have been consistent and unwavering.
President Bush understands that the foundation of America’s safety and security rests with the people like our Midshipmen and all the members of our Armed Forces.
At Camp Pendleton several months ago, the President reminded us that those who serve today are part of a great tradition of victory, reflected in places like Midway and Iwo Jima. And that tradition will continue because, as the President said, “It’s in the hands of people like America’s sailors and America’s Marines.”
The President is right. I’m proud to serve with the men and women of the Naval Academy, those who take up the cause of freedom today.
And I am proud to stand with and support this great Commander in Chief as he leads all the men and women of the Department of Defense to defend our country and to protect the life and liberty that we all so cherish as Americans.
Midshipmen, especially the Class of 2005, men and women of the Armed Forces, ladies and gentlemen, it is my very special privilege and distinct honor to once again here in Annapolis introduce our great Commander in Chief, President George W. Bush. [Applause.]