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Secretary Cohen's Remarks at the Commissioning of the USS Harry S. Truman, Norfolk, VA

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
July 25, 1998
 President Clinton, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, captain and crew of the Truman: Janet and I are deeply honored to be here with you today on such a special occasion. You have made it a very special one in our lives as well.

 

Mr. President, I recall that at the State Dinner you had for British Prime Minister Blair last February you recounted how in 1901, a bright-eyed high school student came across a poem. He copied the verse, neatly folded it, put it in his wallet and he carried it with him for the next half-century. One passage from that poem read, "Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew, from the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue." The poet was Tennyson. And the student was Harry S Truman of Independence, Missouri.

Today, America sends this awesome ship, graced with Harry S Truman's name out to "grapple in the central blue." It's brave crew is going to sail from America and for America, as they ply the seas, defending our country and our interests, giving comfort to our friends and caution to our foes. The USS Harry S Truman is going to give America a powerful platform for peace unmatched in human history.

And while Harry Truman the student might have never imagined that such a ship would bear his name, Harry Truman the Senator, the President and the statesman would surely be filled with pride that it does.

As Secretary of Defense, I too am filled with pride as I look upon the crew of this mighty vessel. These sailors are truly America's best. They come from every station in life, from every race and region of our country, backed up by families that share their sacrifice. A magnificent formation, unified in a selfless mission of dedication and service. I believe this crew and their families would also give Harry Truman great pride. For it was fifty years ago tomorrow that he set America on a course to realize the best in itself with his bold decision to end the racial segregation of our Armed Forces. This outstanding crew is powerful proof of the wisdom of that courageous order and the great promise of years to come.

Today, at this pivot point in history, in this time of stunning new opportunities and startling new dangers, it serves us well to remember President Truman's admonition that, "Peace must be built upon power, as well as upon good will and good deeds." And key to that power is maintaining the readiness of our Armed Forces by ensuring that our men and women in uniform have the training, the supplies and the weaponry they need, both today and into the future.

The USS Harry S Truman is a testament to our commitment to invest in the future, and I am proud that in the last year we have turned the defense procurement budget around and are pursuing a plan that will ensure that future generations of military men and women will be equipped with a future generation of weapons. But securing the future will not come at the expense of preserving peace in the present. The readiness of today's force is and must remain a top priority. We constantly monitor the state of our forces so that we can make necessary adjustments quickly to ensure our readiness. Ongoing challenges abroad and a booming economy at home have produced additional burdens and challenges, to which we have responded promptly. Some actions we can take on our own, and have done so, but much of what is needed requires the support of Congress. Mr. President, I will be working closely with the Congress in the few weeks remaining before it adjourns for the year to ensure that our fighting forces get the resources they need to preserve the peace and defend freedom now and in the future. [Applause]

Ladies and Gentlemen, half a century after Harry Truman, we are privileged to have a President who understands that "peace must be built upon power, as well as upon good will and good deeds."

President Clinton has ensured that America's commitment to world peace rests on having the world's most powerful military forces. He knows that America's good will toward the world is best shown by having in uniform the best men and women that our country can produce. And he understands that our forces must be sustained and supported so they can carry out America's good deeds around the globe, from the forests of Bosnia to the waters of the Persian Gulf to the rugged hills of Korea. President Clinton takes care of our forces so our forces can take care of America, forces like the USS Harry S Truman and the dedicated sailors who bring her to life today. Mr. President, America's military is proud to have you here today. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honor to introduce our Commander-in-Chief, President Bill Clinton.