story & photo
by Kelvin Ake
What a great honor for the United States Coast Guard Academy graduating class of 2017 as they received their diploma in commission at the 136th Commencement Ceremony held on Wednesday May 17 in New London.
Graduation ceremonies are always marked with great pomp and pageantry, but this year’s exercise was a bit more special. The cadets were excited not only to be celebrating the occasion with proud family members and important dignitaries but were especially thrilled to have the President and Commander-in-Chief Donald J. Trump as the commencement speaker.
In his welcome remarks, Rear Admiral James E. Rendon, Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, congratulated the graduates for successfully completing their program. “The mission for these graduates is complete.” he announced. “We are confident they will serve, lead and succeed.”
In his keynote address, President Trump congratulated the Class of 2017 for their accomplishments. “Every cadet graduating today, as your Commander-in-Chief, it is truly my honor to welcome you aboard. And you should take a moment to celebrate this incredible achievement.”
The President also highlighted the vital role of the Coast Guard in the nation’s security. “The Coast Guard is deployed in support of operations in theaters of conflict all around the world, but not only do they defend American security, they also protect American prosperity.”
“You’re the only federal presence upon our inland waterways. You pursue the terrorists, stop the drug smugglers and keep out all who would do harm to our country. Together we have the same mission, and your devotion and dedication makes me proud to be your Commander-in-Chief.” the President said.
Speaking on behalf of his peers, Cadet First Class Christopher Robert Popiel, this year’s distinguished graduate, thanked the guests for joining them to celebrate their achievement. “Our achievement assures us that the Coast Guard will be in good hands.” He noted with pride the courage demonstrated by the Class of 2017 in the face of difficult challenges. “Unity gave us courage to get through the storm.” he said.
Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, Commandant, United States Coast Guard, in his remarks called on the new officers to be leaders of character. “You’re going to be leaders in a world that has storms on many fronts. It’s going to require leaders with character to lead this great nation,” he reminded the young officers. “I have followed this class for four years. I know you’re going to do the best.”
John F. Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary had this ad
vice for the graduates. “Take care of your people. Train them, mentor them and defend them. If you do this,” he explained, “They will do anything you ask them to do. They’ll show up to work on time. They’ll put their lives at risk on the high seas interdicting drug, dealing with the most dangerous men on the planet, or they’ll jump out of a helicopter in the middle of the night in the raging seas to save somebody. All you have to do is lead them.”
President Trump’s speech was followed by the administering of the Oath of Office, presentation of degrees to the 195 graduating officers and the divestiture of cadet symbols, a befitting ending to a day they will long remember.
Congratulation grads! We wish you great success. We honor your devotion to duty and appreciate your service to our nation.