NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — President Obama told U.S. Coast Guard graduates Wednesday to prepare for years filled with vital but dangerous tasks, tempering congratulations and praise with words of caution about a world full of threats.
Speaking at the academy’s graduation ceremony in New London, Conn., Mr. Obama told the 229 cadets of the class of 2011 that the Coast Guard has become one of the nation’s first responders, leading the evacuation of lower Manhattan after 9/11 and helping after last year’s devastating Haiti earthquake and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
More recently, Coast Guard officers helped whisk Americans to higher ground against a surging Mississippi River.
“We know that the complex missions asked of our Coast Guard have never been more important,” Mr. Obama said, ranging from protecting Persian Gulf shipping lanes and combatting piracy off the horn of Africa to protecting America’s shores and preventing would-be terrorist smugglers from infiltrating the nation’s ports.
“None of these missions will be easy, and none are without risk,” Mr. Obama told the 162 men and 67 women. He said that’s the “life and the risk” they have chosen to accept and that, as commander in chief, he would do everything possible to help them succeed.
Mr. Obama was cheered by the cadets, wearing crisp white uniforms, when he alluded to the killing this month of terrorist Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALs, “but the hard work of protecting our country, the hard work goes on,” he told them.
After his speech the president stayed onstage to hand out diplomas as the cadets were commissioned as ensigns. The first assignment for most of the graduates — 197 of them — will be to report to Coast Guard cutters.
For Mr. Obama, it was his final commencement address of the season. The president traditionally delivers a commencement address every year to one of the service academies. The Coast Guard Academy is the smallest of the five. Obama addressed the graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., last year.
The ceremony, the 130th Coast Guard Academy commencement, was forced indoors because of inclement weather.
After the pomp and circumstance, Mr. Obama was headed to the Democratic stronghold of Massachusetts to rally 1,000 supporters at campaign fundraisers in Boston. The events include an intimate dinner for 30 people at an undisclosed private home, followed by a reception for about 900 people at the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts in the South End neighborhood, a Democratic official said.
Tickets for the events range from $200 to the legal maximum of $35,800.
At least two Boston Celtics — All-Star Ray Allen and Hall of Famer and former captain Bill Russell — were expected at the reception in a show of support for Mr. Obama, a basketball aficionado. Mr. Obama awarded Mr. Russell a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor from the nation to a civilian, during a White House ceremony last year.
Mr. Obama’s travels Wednesday suffered a minor hitch when Air Force One, with the president aboard, made an aborted landing attempt upon arrival at Bradley International Airport at Windsor Locks, Conn. The White House and Federal Aviation Administration said it was a routine maneuver where the pilot was in the process of landing, but because of weather conditions — it was heavily clouded — decided to circle the runway before trying again and landing safely.
White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said there was never any risk to the president. Reporters traveling on Air Force One said they were not aware that the landing maneuver — which is called a “go-around” — was happening.
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