NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — President Barack Obama started his keynote address with a little name dropping like he did during his inaugural speech, a name with which the 218 cadets were very familiar.
“Then there was one person in town who asked, ‘did Obama name drop New London?'” the President said, referring to reaction to his January speech. “So let me do it again. It is a great honor to be back in New London at the United States Coast Guard Academy.”
His message to the US Coast Guard Academy cadets and their families focused on climate change and the risks he says the global threat poses to national security, causing instability and unrest.
“I’m just saying climate change did not cause the conflicts we see around the world, yet what we also know is that severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram,” said Mr. Obama.
The President says military forces have to be ready, and these graduates are the new leaders of the U.S. Coast Guard.
“That’s definitely something we’re going to be looking at, servicing the waters up there looking, figuring out where everything is opening up,” said new ensign Victoria Diaz. “That’s going to be one of our big missions. He’s right, that’s going to be one of our main priorities in the Coast Guard.”
Diaz, of East Haddam, is one of eight graduates from Connecticut. She is heading to Pensacola, Fla. for flight school. Like all her classmates, she was handed her orders right from the President.
“I think I blacked out when I shook his hand because I don’t remember what I said to him,” said Diaz. “It’s an honor, a once in a lifetime chance to be able to get to do this and we got to do it today. I”m privileged.”
And now she is among the Coast Guard’s newest ensigns.
As they divest themselves of all symbols of cadet life by throwing up their hats into the air, a Coast Guard helicopter flies over the cheering crowd, a storybook ending to the 134th commencement exercises.