- The Washington Times - Friday, May 22, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama wants to assure graduating midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy that he will invest not just in weapons but also in the people who keep the country safe.

Obama was to mark the start of the Memorial Day weekend with his final commencement speech of the season Friday at the naval academy in Annapolis, Md. Administration officials said the president would thank the graduates for their service and praise them for embracing character over celebrity and country over self.

The president also planned to tell the graduates that his administration would invest in military personnel to fight the unconventional threats facing the country, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the speech ahead of its delivery.

It was Obama’s first address to military graduates, who include the son of presidential rival Sen. John McCain. The Arizona Republican was expected to be in the audience. Had he defeated Obama, McCain, a former naval academy graduate himself, could have been the speaker.

It was to be the third such speech by Obama in the past nine days. He used the previous two commencement addresses to tackle issues that threatened to overshadow both events.

At the University of Notre Dame last Sunday, abortion opponents protested Obama’s appearance because he supports abortion rights. He didn’t avoid the debate, however, telling graduates of the country’s leading Roman Catholic university that people on both sides of the abortion issue must stop demonizing one another.

The issue at Arizona State University, where the president spoke on May 13, was the school’s decision not to award him an honorary degree on grounds that he hadn’t accomplished enough. Obama said he agreed, saying no one’s body of work is ever complete.

Presidents typically deliver a commencement address at one of the service academies each year.

Obama delivered a different kind of speech on Thursday, one in which he sought to regain control of the emotional debate over closing the detention center for suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He denounced “fear-mongering” by political opponents and insisted that maximum-security prisons on the U.S. mainland can safely house the dangerous detainees he wants transferred out of Guantanamo.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney delivered a speech the same day denouncing some of Obama’s actions since taking office as “unwise in the extreme” and repeating his contention that the new president is endangering the country by turning aside Bush-era policies.

Obama and his family were to spend the holiday weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains, traveling there on Saturday and returning Monday.

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