It's certainly no secret to readers of this blog that we at DOT are extremely proud of the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. And it was easy to see why as Maritime Administrator David Matsuda and I visited Kings Point yesterday to take part in the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2012.
The pomp and ritual of commencement are particularly well-suited to academies. The regiment of students in dress whites and precision formations, a well-drilled band, the manicured grounds, and--of course--the time-honored tossing of white caps high in the air.
The Academy's best quality, however, is its student body, and yesterday the graduating class demonstrated that to everyone on hand. The 219 men and women who received their diplomas yesterday embody the spirit of service to their country that has made America the resilient nation we are today.
As they begin their careers, one-fifth of the Class of 2012 will serve as active-duty military officers, and their classmates will join the U.S. Merchant Marine while also serving in the Naval Reserve. Regardless of how today's graduates choose to continue serving their country, I'm certain that these new leaders will serve our nation with honor and a commitment to excellence.
No one embodies that commitment to service and excellence more than the man who delivered yesterday's commencement address, Captain Mark Kelly (KP '86).
He urged the Class of 2012 to pursue lives of service, and he encouraged them to persevere through any challenges they face.
Captain Kelly and his wife, former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, have done both. While they have both served their nation with distinction, no one will forget their strength as they moved forward together after she was gunned down at a public event in January 2011.
Yesterday, in his words to the Class of 2012 Captain Kelly drew on that tragic and challenging experience:
“I have learned a thing or two about the power of the human spirit. It has been an incredible experience for me to watch my wife, Gabby, first fight so hard to survive and then fight so hard to come back. She has been an incredible inspiration to me. She reminds me each and every day to deny the acceptance of failure."
That is terrific advice for all of us, but particularly for the Kings Point graduates who are joining a long line of midshipmen who devote themselves—in peace and in war—to making America strong and prosperous.
As they enter professional life, they will be ambassadors for America's greatness and represent our nation well. And I know that, like their fellow alumnus Captain Kelly, they will indeed stand tall against the challenges they face.
Congratulations to the Class of 2012!