- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2003

ANNAPOLIS — Graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy began their careers yesterday with a somber warning from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that they “will be called on to serve your country in ways you cannot imagine.”

“We are living in a period of turmoil and change,” Mr. Rumsfeld said in his commencement address to 970 graduates of the class of 2003.

He told the new military officers that they will be asked to protect the United States from a world made more dangerous by nuclear proliferation, terrorism, the threat of biological weapons and international drug lords.

“Your future is likely to be unlike anything you can imagine,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

The commencement ceremony was held in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium despite temperatures in the mid 50s and light rain that began falling as the defense secretary finished his speech.

Mr. Rumsfeld told the graduates history teaches “that freedom is not destined to triumph over tyranny.”

“Each time a foe has been vanquished, a new one arises in another corner of the earth,” he said.

“One day the war on terror will end — not soon, but it will end,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “And you will face still more challenging tasks, possibly a world with double the number of nuclear nations, and many of those new nuclear states [will be] terrorist nations.”

“This much is certain: The future must not simply unfold,” he said. “Rather, it will need to be shaped by your leadership. The decisions you make, the courage and creativity you bring to your responsibilities will determine America’s future.”

The speech had its lighter moments.

Mr. Rumsfeld recalled that when he spoke at graduation exercises in 1976 during his first term as secretary of defense, one of the class members was John R. Allen, now the commandant of midshipmen at the academy and a Marine Corps colonel about to become a brigadier general.

“It’s humbling for me to see how far he has progressed, and here I am in the same old job,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “It just shows you what a Naval Academy education can do.”

Mr. Rumsfeld is a former Navy pilot, but he did not attend the academy.

About 20,000 family members and friends of the graduating class attended the ceremony despite chilly weather that was more like March than late May.

Vice Adm. Richard J. Naughton, academy superintendent, was shouted down when he offered the class the option of cutting short the ceremony after diplomas were awarded to the 100 honors graduates.

“OK, it’s you guys sitting in the rain,” he said, and the exercises proceeded as planned.

It took another 90 minutes for the rest of the rain-soaked members of the class to walk across the stage as their names were called out and parents and friends cheered them from under a sea of umbrellas in the stands.

Most of the graduates were commissioned as Navy ensigns or Marine Corps 2nd lieutenants, but two members of the class chose to go into the Air Force. The class included eight students from six foreign countries who will return home to serve in their navies.


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