If you’re looking for a reason to be optimistic about America’s future, just spend some time with the midshipmen at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
I was at Kings Point today to take part in the Class of 2008’s graduation exercises. These dedicated and courageous young people reflect the very best products of a maritime nation. They have studied tirelessly, trained diligently, and endured the rigors of regimental life to prepare to take their place as sentries of the sea.
The diplomas they carry with them from Vickery Gate symbolize the finest maritime education in the world and connect them to a great chain of leaders trained at this pre-eminent institution.
It is a chain that includes the President’s former Chief of Staff Andrew Card and Astronaut Mark Kelly, who commanded the Space Shuttle Discovery safely back to Earth this weekend. It includes ship captains and captains of industry, Panama Canal pilots, and officers in each of the armed services.
Today, that impressive chain grows longer – and stronger – as the 213 members of the Class of 2008 claim their licenses. These new officers are sailors and scholars, athletes and academics. Most importantly, they are leaders and patriots – from valedictorian Robert Thomas Grandstaff, to Scholar All American Chris Nitta, to the 149 class members who are already veterans of the global war on terror. During the year at sea that is unique part of a Kings Point education, they served in the Gulf or on ships carrying supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan.
In every generation, America has been blessed with men and women willing to face the difficulties of life at sea in order to safeguard our national security and promote our economic prosperity.
Today, the service of these mariners is more indispensable than ever. In a global economy, demand for people who understand logistics and are technically proficient with the increasingly complex world of ships and ports is on the rise.
The Panama Canal expansion and rapidly growing interest in liquefied natural gas are creating further job opportunities for mariners. And with fuel prices soaring, short sea shipping routes are getting a new look as an attractive, efficient, and economic alternative to trucking for transporting goods.
So the future holds great promise for today’s graduates, whether their chosen career is in the military, in the merchant marine, or working in the maritime industry in shipyards or ashore. And with young men and women of the caliber of those I met today serving our nation, America’s future is in good hands.