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Christening of the Ronald Reagan
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Newport News, Virginia, Sunday, March 04, 2001

President Bush, [Acting] Secretary [of the Navy Robert] Pirie, I thank you for the kind words and for your long and loyal public service. Mrs. [Nancy] Reagan, welcome. You bring us today the same grace you have always displayed in service to our country, as you christen this great man-of-war in the name of a man of peace.

Chairman John Warner, a true supporter of the Navy and our Armed Forces. Senator Trent Lott, Senator Allen, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, sailors, and men and women of the United States Navy. Yours is truly a noble calling, as you put your lives at risk. Your country thanks you.

And a special welcome to the Reagan Team. This is a terrific group. I see many faces out there who served so ably, and who contributed to making his presidency historic both for our country and for the world.

Seeing this ship that will bear his name and bear witness at home and abroad to peace and freedom, calls to mind my own service as a very junior naval aviator so many years ago. This should offer encouragement to all the servicemen and servicewomen here today. It shows that if you work hard and apply yourself—and the President asks you to become Secretary of Defense—you can leapfrog right up the chain of command. [Laughter.] Thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity to serve.

Twelve years ago, Ronald Reagan spoke to the American people for the last time as President. As he reflected on his years in the White House, he recalled an incident from the 1980s when the aircraft carrier Midway was patrolling in the South China Sea, and came across a "leaky little boat . . . crammed with refugees from Indochina." And as the refugees made their way through the choppy seas, one spied a sailor high up on the deck of the carrier, and called out, "Hello American sailor. Hello freedom man."

What President Reagan called that "small moment with a big meaning" captured what America has symbolized to millions throughout our history and what guides our destiny today. America does stand for freedom. Today, we stand in the shadow of another "big ship" to reaffirm that shining spirit.

Like President Reagan before him, the President who joins us today has a vision for America. This ship will represent—and its crew will embody—the goals that President Bush has set forth for our military. They will reflect the bond of trust and respect between Americans and their military. In short, they will reflect the truth that President Bush captured when he declared, "Peace is not ordained, it is earned. It is not a harbor where we rest, it is a voyage we must chart."

And so, it is my high honor to present a leader who has worn the uniform of this country, and who understands that the foundation of peace is through a strong, capable and modern military. Men and women of the Armed Forces, ladies and gentlemen, it is a privilege to introduce our Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush. [Applause.]


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