Obama Heralds West Point Graduates for Service to Country
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 22, 2010 President Barack Obama praised the U.S. Military Academy’s Class of 2010 at its graduation and commissioning ceremonies today for choosing to serve their country during wartime at a pivotal time in its history.Video
President Barack Obama and Army Lt. Gen. Franklin L. “Buster” Hagenbeck, West Point superintendent, render honors as the West Point Band plays “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the U.S. Military Academy Class of 2010 graduation ceremonies in Michie Stadium at West Point, N.Y., May 22, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Tommy Gilligan
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Recognizing the vast demographic differences among the class’ 1,002 graduating members at Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y., the president cited the unified sense of duty and commitment to their nation’s security they all share.
“Here in the quiet of these hills, you have come together to prepare for the most difficult tests of our time,” he said. “You signed up knowing your service would send you into harm's way, and did so long after the first drums of war were sounded.
“In you we see the commitment of our country, and timeless virtues that have served our nation well,” Obama said.
The president recognized the Class of 2010’s motto, “Loyal ‘Til the End,” as a hallmark that will guide the new officers during their military careers, particularly while serving in the combat theater.
The president last addressed the “Long Gray Line” of cadets here in December, when he announced his Afghanistan strategy. Today he acknowledged that “a tough fight” remains in ensuring its success.
“There will be difficult days ahead,” he said, conceding that “the threat will not go way soon.”
The international effort to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda is a “necessary and just” one that’s changed over the past nine years but remains “no less important than it was in those days after 9/11,” Obama told the cadets.
Despite “more success in eliminating al Qaeda leaders in recent months than in recent years,” he acknowledged that the enemy “will continue to recruit, plot and exploit our open society.”
“But we will adapt, we will persist,” Obama said. “And I have no doubt that together with our Afghan and international partners, we will succeed in Afghanistan.”
He promised the full support of the United States as the military helps the Afghan people confront extremism and bolster their own national security forces while promoting economic progress and civil development.
"We have brought hope to the Afghan people,” he said. “Now we must see that their country does not fall prey to our common enemies.”
Obama also reiterated his pledge to end U.S. combat operations in Iraq this summer. He defined success there as “an Iraq that provides no safe-haven to terrorists [and] a democratic Iraq that is sovereign, stable and self-reliant.”
The president paid tribute to the 78 West Point graduates who have died in the war on terror, and recognized the military’s steadfast support in confronting challenges facing the United States.
“You, and all who wear America's uniform, remain the cornerstone of our national defense, and the anchor of global security,” he told the cadets. “And through a period when too many of our institutions have acted irresponsibly, the American military has set a standard of service and sacrifice that is as great as any in this nation's history.”
But Obama also emphasized that military might alone won’t ensure success against current or future threats. “The burdens of this century cannot fall on American soldiers alone,” he said.
He pledged to shape a new, international order based on global cooperation and partnerships that address not just military, but also economic and environmental challenges.
"The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times,” he said, ticking off examples: “countering violent extremism and insurgency; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials; combating a changing climate and sustaining global growth; helping countries feed themselves and care for their sick; preventing conflict and healing its wounds.”
The United States will use these principles as its guide as it faces the future, the president said. “We are Americans, and our destiny is never written for us, it is written by us,” he told the cadets. “And we are ready to lead once more.”
Army Lt. Gen. Franklin L. “Buster” Hagenbeck, superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, recognized the graduating class for distinguishing itself through academic and athletic excellence. “You have met all the challenges of West Point,” he said. “Now you are ready to assume the mantle of leadership” and to play “a decisive role as leaders of character.”
Nearly all of the graduating cadets were commissioned as Army second lieutenants in the U.S. Army. One was commissioned into the Air Force, one into the Navy and three into the Marine Corps.