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Secretary Kelly Delivers Remarks at the USCG Academy Commencement

Release Date: 
May 19, 2017

 

Well thanks Commandant, thanks very much and I will be very, very brief. Two bits of advice and I know an awful lot of people will be giving you advice but I’ll tell you the ones that got me through forty five and a half years of leading Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Coasties in combat and in peacetime.

Take care of your people. Train them. Mentor them. Defend them. They will do anything you ask them to do. They’ll show up to work on time. They will put their lives at risk, on the high seas interdicting drugs in tons, dealing with the most dangerous men on the planet, or they would jump out of a helicopter in the middle of the night into raging seas to save someone’s life. All you have to do is lead them.

The second thing I wanted to share with you is, is a bit of advice. Tell the truth. Tell the truth to your seniors even though it is uncomfortable, even though they may not want to hear it. They deserve that. Tell the truth.

And finally a quick story about what you are about to do. Because it’s all going to get fairly serious here in a minute. As you go from cadets to commissioned officers. About 42 million Americans in our history have taken the oath that you are about to take. More or less. 42 million Americans, about a million of them have died in defense of their country. And as the story goes, we have a very, very unique oath. The most unique oath on the planet. If we were in London right now and you were graduating from whatever school you would be taking an oath to the sovereign, to the queen. If we were in France, you’d be taking an oath to the French people. If we were in Beijing, you’d be taking an oath to the Communist Party. And there are various others. We are the only country, you are the only people that will take an oath to a concept. Embodied, in a piece of paper, called the U.S. Constitution. So understand first and foremost we are a nation of laws. And if we use that as our guiding document we will never, ever go wrong.

So where did the oath come from? As the story goes it’s generally accurate as I understand it. They were about to inaugurate our very first president, who’d never done that before, George Washington, in our first capital, New York City. They were just about to go out and do it, and someone said, don’t we need an oath? Because up until then they had been Englishmen and Englishmen and Englishwomen and had always taken their oath to the sovereign. So they sat down and wrote up the oath that you generally are about to take and handed it to George Washington before he became President. The only thing he added to that oath was so help me God.

So as you take the oath today understand that you are swearing to the American people, to a piece of paper, to uphold the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, and to your death, you are willing to go, to fulfill that oath.

So from one Marine to a whole bunch of cadets just about to be commissioned officers, I wish you well, farewell, fair winds, and following seas as we say in the Naval services. God Bless you, God Bless your parents. And you can now go do it and lead those young Coasties into what duties they are accomplishing. So again, I am incredibly proud to be up here. And with that my duty, my honor now, is to introduce our President, our Commander in Chief, Donald Trump.

Thank you very much.

Last Published Date: May 24, 2017
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