This is an exciting time in the life of me as President of our country.
I've come here for two reasons. Basically, one is to express my deep thanks to all of you for your tremendous, courageous service to our country, and the second, in the hopes that if the Commander in Chief could come here, your messhall might eventually be completed. [Laughter]
I want particularly to express my thanks to those who ran with me this morning. I'm much better at competing with you in running than I would be in boxing. [Laughter] I've heard from your very unbiased commanding officer that when you compete in boxing, the match never lasts more than one round, and I want to congratulate you for that as well.
The next time I come back, I'll run in combat boots and let you run in running shoes. Maybe it'll be more even. But I'll only run against those who are 55 years old. [Laughter]
I am very proud to stand before you as Commander in Chief, proud of our country, and proud of you, the historic combat record that you exemplify in your present service, and proud of your superb commander, General Kingston, who in my opinion represents the finest in military service.
As you know, the Signal Corps plays the closest possible role to a President. Wherever I go, either at the White House, in remote areas of the world, I must have instant communication throughout the entire world with others. I've seen the special accomplishment that you yourselves have realized under the most difficult simulated combat conditions in recent maneuvers. More battles have been won or lost because of the quality of communications than perhaps because of any other single factor. And so you represent the key to victory or defeat, and with your superb record, this would enhance our chance for victory.
I know that all of you serving so far from home miss your families. I served for 11 years in the Navy, and that was perhaps the worst part of my life—being away from home, being away from those I love. But I can assure you that those of you who serve here are never forgotten by those in our own home, in your homes, or throughout our country.
Thirty years ago, on this remote peninsula, 50,000 young Americans gave their lives for principles in which we still believe, the principle that people should be permitted to live in peace, free of the threat of successful aggression, and the right to live in freedom.
We have since that time maintained peace, a fragile peace, not ever completely free of challenge or danger. But America is a nation that is strong. We maintain our strength, not because we love war or because we desire war, but because we are committed to peace. And we know that peace can only be maintained with strength.
As I shook hands with the fine young men this morning, they all gave a slogan that is typical, I think, not only of you but of our country as well—"Fit to Fight." I have no doubt that you are fit to fight. And I can assure you, as President, that our Nation is also fit to fight, and we will avoid combat by maintaining our strength.
We believe in certain very precious principles—equality, justice, freedom, the preservation of basic human rights, and we also believe in standing by our allies.
You represent the finest of America, and I am deeply proud to be the President and to be Commander in Chief of men and women like you.
Thank you for honoring me by this ceremony this morning. God bless every one of you. Thanks from the bottom of my heart.