(The following is an edited version of President Bush’s remarks in a June 19 Commencement address at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, NY.)
I’m honored to be the first President to address the United States Merchant Marine Academy. This is a proud moment for the Class of 2006. You have worked hard for this day. On behalf of the American people, I congratulate you on a fine achievement, and I thank you for choosing to serve the United States of America.
Life at this Academy is demanding—and it is meant to be. America is a great maritime power, and our Merchant Marine has a vital role to play. In times of peace, the Merchant Marine helps ensure our economic security by keeping the oceans open to trade. In times of war, the Merchant Marine is the lifeline of our troops overseas, carrying critical supplies, equipment, and personnel. For more than six decades, the mission of this Academy has been to graduate highly skilled mariners to serve America’s economic and national security needs.
‘Deeds, Not Words’ was the hallmark of this Academy in World War II. In the early years of the war, America’s efforts to supply our allies in Europe were threatened by the U-boats that were sinking American ships faster than we could build them. The need to arm and defend our merchant ships was urgent, and King Pointers answered the call.
‘Deeds, Not Words’ was your response on the morning of September the 11th, 2001. From this campus, every man and woman could see the black smoke rising from the Twin Towers. Within hours, your midshipmen were working side-by-side with the Coast Guard and marine division of the New York City Fire Department. Over the next nine days, you moved firefighters and police and emergency response teams into Ground Zero. You moved tons of food and water and supplies. The heroic response to that terrible day showed the spirit of America—and the spirit of this fine Academy. And I thank you for your service.
‘Deeds, Not Words’ defines the Academy’s role in the global war on terror. Your cadets are forward deployed in the Middle East, where they’re supporting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Your Global Maritime and Transportation School is providing advanced training in areas from marine engineering to port security for military units like the Navy Seabees and Surface Warfare Officers. And your graduates are serving our nation in every branch of our Armed Services, as sailors projecting American combat power across the Earth; as Marines and soldiers leading platoons from Khandahar to Tikrit; as Coast Guard officers securing our homeland; and as airmen delivering justice to terrorists hiding in safe houses and caves. In the global war on terror, the men and women of this Academy are making a difference on every front—and the American people are grateful for your service.
As we saw on September the 11, 2001, the actions of a repressive regime thousands of miles away can have a direct impact on our own security. In this new century, the loss of freedom anywhere is a blow to freedom everywhere. And when freedom advances, people gain an alternative to violence, and the prospects for peace are multiplied and all nations become more secure. So America and Europe have launched bold initiatives to aid democratic reformers across the world, especially in the broader Middle East. We’ve worked with the United Nations to end the Syrian occupation of Lebanon—and we will not rest until the Lebanese people enjoy full independence. We’re determined to end the conflict in the Holy Land and bring about a solution with two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.
Our shared commitment to extending freedom and democracy is clear in Afghanistan and Iraq. Together America and Europe have helped bring about a historic transformation in those countries. Two of the world’s most dangerous regimes have been removed from power, and the world is better off for it. Al Qaida’s training camps have been closed in Afghanistan. Al Qaida’s lead