What a great pleasure to be back at the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY, for the commencement exercises honoring the class of 2010!
I want to thank Dr. Shashi Kumar and everyone involved with the Academy for another great year and another terrific year. And I want to thank this year’s commencement speaker, Admiral Michael Mullen, USN, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As I’ve said before at Kings Point, the Academy is an enormous asset to our nation. The nation's economic and security needs met by the U.S. merchant marine are compelling. And the Academy prepares its graduates to operate the best commercial fleet in the world and support our national defense at a moment’s notice.
I am proud to report that the Kings Point community is thriving. And with additional help and support from the Obama Administration, it will become stronger still.
Last year, for example, I promised that we would take the steps needed to restore the Academy to its rightful place as a jewel among the nation’s service academies.
We are living up to that commitment. We’ve begun a systematic effort to improve all of the facilities at Kings Point, and, so far, we're making steady progress.
We anticipate that students can move into Murphy Hall in July. And work on the “Grinder” --the courtyard used for midshipman formations--is complete.
But there’s even more work ahead. We’ve doubled the budget for capital improvements to help renovate the mess hall and the midshipmen’s berthing, among other projects.
As we do the work of upgrading Academy facilities, every detail counts. Because everyone at the Academy--every graduate of the class of 2010, and all of the incoming and future midshipmen who will be trained there--deserve no less.
You know, the most important element in an effective merchant fleet and a strong transportation industry is people--men and women who are intelligent, dedicated, well-educated and competent. The US Merchant Marine Academy ensures that such people are available to the nation as mariners and as leaders in the transportation field.
And the class of 2010 is no exception. Like the many who preceded them, these graduates are ready to serve.