Under a brilliant blue sky, President Donald Trump became the 19th commander-in-chief to take part in the Naval Academy graduation at Annapolis, Maryland, on Friday — a ritual filled with symbolism and history that included a flyover by the Blue Angels.
Emphasizing respect for military and country, Trump addressed the 1,042 graduates and their family members and guests inside Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Thirty thousand people were expected to be in attendance, as the Capital Gazette reported.
“In case you haven’t noticed, we have become a lot stronger lately,” said the president to the graduates and guests. “A lot. We are not going to apologize for America. We are going to stand up for America. No more apologies.”
The president noted the proud past of the Navy — while celebrating the future contributions of the graduates.
“Each of you inherits the legacy of the heroes who came before you, living history passed down from officer to officer and generation to generation,” he said. “Each of you will make your own mark on the Navy, the Marine Corps and the history of our great nation.”
He added, “To the men and women about to be commissioned as ensigns in the Navy and second lieutenants in the Marine Corps, let me say on behalf of the entire nation, we could not be more proud of the United States Naval Academy Class of 2018. Four years ago, each of you made the most important decision of your lives. You chose the path of hard work, sweat, and sacrifice. You chose the life of honor, courage, and commitment. You chose to serve the nation, and defend our great American flag.”
The president also kidded around with the newly-minted grads in his speech, officially forgiving their small rule infractions. To cheers from the sea of white uniforms before him, he quipped, “In keeping with tradition, I declare that all midshipmen on restriction for minor offenses, you are nearby absolved!”
He also noted the Navy’s impressive year in sports, saying, “This year, Navy beat Army 19 times” — he paused — “and I will not mention who won the football game.” (Army won their December 2017 match-up by a score of 14-13.) He then said, “Let me take a guess — you’re still not tired of winning!”
The president also reflected on the character of those who choose to serve in the Navy.
“You crave adventure, you chase discovery, and you never flinch in the eye of a raging storm,” he said. “America is in your heart, the ocean is in your soul, and saltwater runs through your veins. You live your life according to the final law of the Navy. The word ‘impossible’ does not exist, because Navy never quits.”
Trump also acknowledged what all the hard work had done for the new graduates.
To vigorous clapping and cheers, he said, “You are now leaders in the most powerful and righteous force on the face of the planet, the United States military. And we are respected again, I can tell you that. We are respected again.”
As an example of a naval hero, President Trump told the story of Bruce Avery Van Voorhis, a Navy aviator who was shot down in the Pacific Theater during World War II. For his actions on July 6, 1943, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
“You should recognize how fortunate you are to serve today under a commander-in-chief who believes what President Reagan believed.”
“His only brother had been killed in the Batan death march,” said the president. “On July 6th, Bruce volunteered for a mission to destroy a crucial military base … He knew full well that he would likely never return; he knew he was going to die. But he also knew his daring action could prevent a surprise attack on large-scale American forces. So his plane took off alone, on a 700-mile flight.”
Van Voohis singlehandedly completed his mission, Trump explained, but was caught in the blast of one of his own bombs. The hero perished after saving untold numbers of lives.
Dignitaries present at the graduation ceremonies included national security adviser John Bolton and Undersecretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.
“You should recognize how fortunate you are to serve today under a commander-in-chief who believes what President Reagan believed,” Modly told the graduating class. “Our national security should be guided by the clearest of principles. That principle is peace through strength.”
Among the graduating class, 784 students will become ensigns in the Navy, and 237 will become second lieutenants in the Marine Corps, noted the Capital Gazette.
The president indicated at the conclusion of his remarks that he would stay and shake every single graduate’s hand.
Deirdre Reilly is a senior editor with LifeZette. Follow her on Twitter.