Thank you for the warm welcome—General Lennox, Secretary Harvey, Members of the United States Congress, Academy staff and faculty, distinguished guests, proud family, and, most importantly, the class of 2006.
On the way in, General Lennox showed me what you did to his car. [Laughter] I told him, "That's a fine looking vehicle"— [laughter]—"but you need to stay away from Marine One." [Laughter]
I see a lot of "Gray Hogs" out there— a few "Century Men" too. During your 4 years at this Academy, I'm told, there are about 18,000 opportunities to be late for class, drill, march, or inspection, and many of you availed yourselves of those opportunities. [Laughter] Others got written up just for having bad haircuts. No matter what reason you got slugged, help is on the way. In keeping with longstanding tradition, I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses. I leave it to General Lennox to define exactly what "minor" means. [Laughter]
It's a privilege to stand before the future leaders of the United States Army. You have worked hard to get to this moment. You've survived the hardest Beast on record, the "best summer of your lives" in Buckistan, countless hours in the House of Pain. In 4 years, you've been transformed from "bean-heads" to "yuks" to "cows" and "Firsties." And today you will become proud officers of the greatest army in the history of the world. Your teachers are proud of you; your parents are proud of you; and so is your Commander in Chief. Congratulations on a fantastic achievement.
This Academy has shaped your minds and bodies for the challenges that lie ahead. You worked hard in the classroom and on the playing field to prepare for the rigors of combat. One cadet described the West Point attitude this way: "First I'll beat Navy and Air Force, and then I'll beat the enemies of freedom on the battlefield."
The field of battle is where your degree and commission will take you. This is the first class to arrive at West Point after the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. Each of you came here in a time of war, knowing all the risks and dangers that come with wearing our Nation's uniform. And I want to thank you for your patriotism, your devotion to duty, your courageous decision to serve. America is grateful and proud of the men and women of West Point.
The reality of war has surrounded you since your first moments at this Academy. More than 50 of your fellow cadets here at West Point have already seen combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. And 34 times since your class arrived, you have observed a moment of silence in Washington Hall to honor a former cadet fallen in the war on terror. Each loss is heartbreaking, and each loss has made you even more determined to pick up their mantle, to carry on their fight, and to achieve victory. We will honor the memory of those brave souls. We will finish the task for which they gave their lives. We will complete the mission.
West Point has adapted to prepare you for the war you're about to enter. Since the attacks of September the 11th, 2001, this Academy has established a new combating terrorism center, a new minor in terrorism studies, with new courses in counterinsurgency operations, intelligence, and homeland security, and winning the peace. West Point has expanded Arabic language training, has hired new faculty with expertise in Islamic law and culture, brought in members of the 101 ...
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