Coast Guard Academy
New London, Connecticut
11:50 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, John. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you, and congratulations to the Class of 2017. Great job.
And, General Kelly, I want to thank you for your leadership as the Coast Guard’s Service Secretary. You’ve really been something very, very special to us as a country, and to me and our administration. You’ve done throughout your entire life an incredible job defending your country. Thank you very much, John. (Applause.)
And John and all of his folks are also doing an incredible job protecting our homeland and our border. And I’m thrilled that my first address to the Service Academy is the graduation ceremony for the United States Coast Guard. Believe me, it’s a great honor. (Applause.) I’ve been here before and it’s a very, very special place. Every cadet graduating today, as your Commander-in-Chief, it is truly my honor to welcome you aboard. (Applause.) And you should take a moment to celebrate this incredible achievement.
Governor Malloy, thank you for being here. Governor, thank you. We’re glad you could join us. And I know how busy the governors are nowadays, and they’re out there fighting. It’s never easy. Budgets are a little tight, but we’re doing a job, all of us are doing a job, working together.
I want to also thank Admiral Zookunft and his leadership. His leadership has been amazing. Today’s graduates will be fortunate to serve under such capable and experienced Commandant. He really is fantastic.
Thanks also to Admiral Rendon, the Academy Superintendent. Admiral, I understand you come from a true Coast Guard family. Two brothers, a nephew, a cousin have all passed through these halls. That’s very impressive. I guess you like the place, right? (Applause.) Somebody in your family has been doing something right, I can tell you that. I’m sure they all are very proud, just as we are very proud of the fine young officers who are graduating today, Admiral, on your watch.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to all of the parents and the grandparents and family members who have supported these amazing graduates. Give your parents and everyone a hand. Come on. (Applause.) Because America has families like yours, and we’ll keep all of those families safe and very, very secure. You’re keeping your families safe now.
If you are not already, you’re about to become military families. So, starting today, I hope you feel the full gratitude of our nation. These fine young cadets are about to take their rightful place on the front line of defense for the United States of America. Cadets, you deserve not only the congratulations but the gratitude of each and every American, and we all salute you. (Applause.) A proud nation. And you’re a part of a very, very proud nation which salutes the 195 199 cadets of the Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017. Good job. (Applause.)
And I understand from the admirals that this has been a very special class. You’ve been trained here to handle the toughest of situations, the hardest of moments really that you can experience, and the hardest in people’s lives, and to help the weak in their hour of need. But even for the Coast Guard, this class has been exceptionally dedicated to public service.
You served breakfast at the local food bank every single weekday. You rebuilt a home with Habitat for Humanity. Last year, you led cadets in donating a total of 24,000 hours — a lot of time — to community service. You’ve done amazing work. And in the true Coast Guard fashion, you had fewer people and fewer resources, but you accomplished the objectives, and you did it with skill and with pride — and, I’d like to say, under budget and ahead of schedule. We’re doing a lot of that now in the United States government. (Applause.) We’re doing a lot of that.
I won’t talk about how much I saved you on the F-35 fighter jet. I won’t even talk about it. Or how much we’re about to save you on the Gerald Ford, the aircraft carrier. That had a little bit of an overrun problem before I got here, you know that. Still going to have an overrun problem. We came in when it was finished. But we’re going to save some good money. And when we build the new aircraft carriers they’re going to be built under budget and ahead of schedule, just remember that. (Applause.) That will allow us to build more.
Now, of course, there are always a few slip-ups from time to time — you know that. For example, I understand that once or twice, First Class Cadet Bruce Kim — where’s Bruce? (Applause.) Where’s Bruce? Oh, Bruce, how do you do this to yourself, Bruce? (Laughter.) As Regimental Parking Officer, might have accidentally caused a few tickets to be issued or a few of your cars to be booted. Bruce, what’s going on with you? (Laughter.)
But, Cadets, from this day forward, we want everyone to have a clean slate in life. That includes Bruce, right? (Laughter.) And so, for any oversights or small violations that might have occurred this year, as tradition demands, I hereby absolve every cadet serving restrictions for minor offenses.
Now, Bruce — stand up once again, Bruce. (Laughter.) They saved you, Bruce, because they all wanted me to do that, okay? Thank you, Bruce. Congratulations, Bruce. (Applause.) Good job. By the way, Bruce, don’t worry about it. That’s the tradition. I was forced to do that. You know that. Don’t worry. (Laughter.)
This is truly an amazing group of cadets that are here today for commission. You could have gone to school anywhere you wanted — and with very, very few responsibilities by comparison. Instead, you chose the path of service. You chose hard work, high standards, and a very noble mission — to save lives, defend the homeland, and protect America’s interests around the world. You chose the Coast Guard. Good choice. Good choice. (Applause.)
You’ve learned skills they don’t teach at other schools right here on the grounds of this academy and also on your larger campus — the open sea. That is a large, large campus, isn’t it? A beautiful campus. But the greatest lesson you’ve learned at this proud institution is the knowledge you’ve learned about yourself. It’s the knowledge that each and every one of you is something very special — you are leaders.
From the first stormy days of your Swab Summer to your final weeks as a first class cadet, you have been expected to take responsibility, to make decisions, and to act. And I — like all leaders, that’s exactly what you have to do. You have to act, and you have to act properly. And you have to learn how to act under great, great pressure. You’re all going to be under great pressure. You have to learn how to respond and to act under great pressure.
Just days from now, you will put this vital skill into the service of your ships, your sectors, and your country. You’ll serve as deck watch officers on our amazing Coast Guard cutters. You’ll bring law and order to the dangerous waters as boating officers. You will block illegal shipments of cash, weapons and drugs. You will battle the scourge of human trafficking — something that people haven’t been talking about. One of the big, big plagues of the world. Not our country only — the world. Human trafficking.
Americans will place their trust in your leadership, just as they have trusted in generations of Coast Guard men and women, with respect for your skill, with awe at your courage, and with the knowledge that you will always be ready. You are Always Ready.
Not only will our citizens trust in your leadership, your commanders will trust you as well. The Coast Guard is the gold standard in delegating decision-making down to chain command. So just as your instructors have at the academy, your Coast Guard commanders will explain their vision, and then they will trust you to get the job done. Just like I, as your President, will also trust you to get the job done.
It’s amazing to think of the adventures that are about to begin for you. Across the country this month, millions of other students are graduating high school, college. Many others are wondering, just what am I going to do. They’re saying to themselves, what are they going to do. You know what you’re going to do. Many, many students are graduating from college right now. They’re saying, what am I going to do? Where am I going to go to work? You know it. You picked a good one, by the way. You picked a beautiful one, a good one, and we’re really proud to have you, I can tell you. (Applause.)
Years from now, some of them may look back and ask themselves whether they’ve made the right choice, whether they’ve made the most of the opportunities they’ve been given. In the Coast Guard, you will face many challenges and many threats, but one thing you will never have to face is that question of what will I do. When you look back, you won’t doubt. You know exactly how you spent your time — saving lives.
I look at your admirals, I look at General Kelly, I look at some of the great people in service, and I want to tell you, they’re excited about life. They love what they do. They love the country. They love protecting our country, and they love what they do. Is that right? Good. I didn’t think anyone was going to say no. (Laughter.) That would have ruined our speech, right? (Laughter.) They’re great people.
You always know just what you’ll be: the leaders and officers of the United States Coast Guard. (Applause.)
And when they see your uniform, everyone in the world will know exactly what that means. What standard — and really if you think of it, when you talk about the great sailors, and the great sailors of the world, we have them. But what stranded sailor doesn’t feel relief when those red racing stripes break the horizon? What drifting soul at sea, with only a short time left to live, doesn’t rejoice at the sound of those chopper blades overhead, coming back and coming down to rescue them from death? What poison-peddling drug runner, the scourge of our country, doesn’t tremble with fear when the might of the Coast Guard comes bearing down on them? In each case, we know the reason –America’s lifesaving service is on the way. The Coast Guard is truly vital to the United States Armed Forces and truly vital to our great country. (Applause.)
Out of the five branches of our Armed Services, it’s only the Coast Guard that has the power to break through 21 feet of rock-solid Arctic ice, right? You’re the only ones. And I’m proud to say that under my administration, as you just heard, we will be building the first new heavy icebreakers the United States has seen in over 40 years. We’re going to build many of them. (Applause.) We need them. We need them.
The Coast Guard stands watch at our ports, patrols our waterways, and protects our infrastructure. You defend America in a world of massive and very grave threats. Soon, some of you will be leading boardings of suspicious vessels, searching for the most deadly weapons, and detaining criminals to keep our people safe. Others of you will work with partners in scores of countries around the globe, bringing in the full power of the United States Coast Guard right up to those distant shores. And some of those shores are very far away.
To secure our borders from drug cartels, human smugglers, and terrorist threats, Coast Guard Cutters patrol more than 1,500 miles below our southern border. A lot of people didn’t know that. When enormous pride hits your heart, you realize that it’s with this great skill and tremendous speed, our Coast Guard men and women interdict dangerous criminals and billions and billions of dollars’ worth of illegal narcotics every single year. Your helicopters launch from the decks of world-class national security cutters, and they chase drug smugglers at speeds far in excess of 50 knots.
In rough seas, at high speeds, our incredible Coast Guard snipers take their aim at the smugglers’ engines. And time after time, they take out the motors on the first shot. They don’t like wasting the bullets, right? (Applause.) They actually don’t. Your slice through roaring storms, and through pouring rain and crashing waves is a place where few other people will ever venture — exciting. Exciting. But you have to have it in your heart. You have to love it. You love it.
In the Coast Guard, you don’t run from danger, you chase it. And you are deployed in support of operations in theaters of conflict all around the world. But not only do you defend American security, you also protect American prosperity. It’s a mission that goes back to the earliest days of the Revenue Cutter Service. You’ve read about that and studied that.
Today, the Coast Guard helps keep our waters open for Americans to do business. It keeps our rivers flowing with commerce. And it keeps our ports churning with American exports. You help billions and billions of dollars in goods to navigate our country every day. You are the only federal presence on our inland waterways. You police the arteries we need to rebuild this country and to bring prosperity back to our heartland. And we are becoming very, very prosperous again. You can see that.
Think of the glorious mission that awaits. You will secure our harbors, our waterways, and our borders. You will partner with our allies to advance our security interests at home and abroad. And you will pursue the terrorists, you will stop the drug smugglers, and you will seek to keep out all who would do harm to our country — all who can never, ever love our country. Together, we have the same mission, and your devotion and dedication makes me truly proud to be your Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.) Thank you.
Now, I want to take this opportunity to give you some advice. Over the course of your life, you will find that things are not always fair. You will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted. But you have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight. Never, ever, ever give up. Things will work out just fine.
Look at the way I’ve been treated lately — (laughter) — especially by the media. No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down. You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams. (Applause.) I guess that’s why I — thank you. I guess that’s why we won.
Adversity makes you stronger. Don’t give in. Don’t back down. And never stop doing what you know is right. Nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy. And the more righteous your right, the more opposition that you will face.
I’ve accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short time as President. Jobs pouring back in to our country. A brand-new Supreme Court justice — who’s going to be fantastic for 45 years — (applause) — a historic investment in our military. Border crossings — thank you to our General — are down more than 70 percent in just a short period of time — a total record, by the way, by a lot. (Applause.) We’ve saved the Second Amendment, expanded service for our veterans — we are going to take care of our veterans like they’ve never been taken care of before. (Applause.)
I’ve loosened up the strangling environmental chains wrapped around our country and our economy, chains so tight that you couldn’t do anything — that jobs were going down. We were losing business. We’re loosening it up. We’ve begun plans and preparations for the border wall, which is going along very, very well. We’re working on major tax cuts for all. We are going to give you the largest tax cut in the history of our country if we get it the way we want it, and we’re going to give you major tax reform. (Applause.) And we’re also getting closer and closer, day by day, to great healthcare for our citizens. (Applause.)
And we are setting the stage right now for many, many more things to come. And the people understand what I’m doing, and that’s the most important thing. I didn’t get elected to serve the Washington media or special interests. I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women of our country, and that’s what I’m doing. (Applause.) I will never stop fighting for you, and I will never stop fighting for the American people.
As you leave this academy to embark on your exciting new voyage, I am heading on a very crucial journey as well. In a few days, I will make my first trip abroad as President. With the safety, security, and interests of the American people as my priority, I will strengthen old friendships and will seek new partners — but partners who also help us. Not partners who take and take and take, partners who help, and partners who help pay for whatever we are doing and all of the good we’re doing for them — which is something that a lot of people have not gotten used to and they just can’t get used to it. I say, get used to it, folks. (Applause.) I’ll ask them to unite for a future of peace and opposition opportunity for our peoples and the peoples of the world.
First, in Saudi Arabia, where I’ll speak with Muslim leaders and challenge them to fight hatred and extremism, and embrace a peaceful future for their faith. And they’re looking very much forward to hearing what we — as your representative — we have to say. We have to stop radical Islamic terrorism. (Applause.)
Then in Israel, I’ll reaffirm our unbreakable alliance with the Jewish state. In Rome, I will talk with Pope Francis about the contributions of Christian teachings to the world. Finally, I’ll attend the NATO Summit in Brussels and the G7 in Sicily — to promote security, prosperity and peace all over the world.
I’ll meet scores of leader, and honor the holiest sites of these three great religions. And everywhere I go, I will carry the inspiration I take from you each day, from your courage and determination to do whatever is required save and protect American lives. Save and protect American lives. We want security. You’re going to give us security. (Applause.)
In just one example, we see how priceless that gift of life is to the people you touch every day. A few years ago, a Coast Guard helicopter and rescue swimmer took off in the direction of three terrified fishermen who clung to their sinking and burning vessel. That day, our Coast Guard heroes did their jobs well. They flew over the sea, despite tremendous danger, and extended a helping hand at the moment it was most urgently needed. There was very little time left.
But that’s not the most remarkable part of that story. As one Coast Guard swimmer put it, you do that stuff all the time. You do it every hour of the day. Something is happening all the time with the United States Coast Guard. You do an amazing job. A remarkable thing happened with that rescue, but when you think of it, you do those rescues all the time. There, the Vietnamese fishing captain grabbed the swimmer’s hand. He looked his Coast Guard rescuer in the eye, and said: “I was asking God to please let me live….I need to see my kids. Please, God, please, let me live so that I can see my kids. Then God sent me you.” That’s what he said. (Applause.)
To every new officer, and to every new Coast Guard member here today, or out protecting life around the world on some of the roughest waters anywhere, you truly are doing God’s work. What a grateful heart you must all have. Because it is with my very grateful heart, and America’s cheers for the Coast Guard — and America cheers for you often — but we wish you good luck.
As your Commander-in-Chief, I thank you. I salute you. And I, once again, congratulate the Coast Guard Class of 2017. (Applause.) God bless you. God bless the Coast Guard. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody. Great honor. Good luck. Enjoy your life. (Applause.)
12:18 P.M. EDT