John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks Aboard the Coast Guard Training Barque Eagle.

August 15, 1962

Mr. Secretary, Members o/the Confess, Mr. Superintendent, Commandant, distinguished officers , cadets:

It's a great personal pleasure for me to have an opportunity, with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Members of Congress, to review the cadets of this ship and to have an opportunity to indicate our great interest in the Coast Guard.

As a sailor on one of the ships of the Coast Guard this weekend, I realized how important and significant this operation which you've carded out today is. I'm not sure there are many other Americans who could climb that rigging and unfurl those sails in good times and in bad times.

I think that the American people have been too long unaware of the high quality and high caliber of the cadets of the Coast Guard. When I was a Member of the Congress I had an opportunity to make an analysis of the kinds of examinations which are given to a cadet entering the Coast Guard and I must say they are most exacting, they are of the highest standard. Academically, the Coast Guard is certainly second to none of its sister academies of the Navy, the Army, and the Air force. It attracts able young men from all sections of the country who love the sea and who recognize that the Coast Guard, with the Corps of Engineers, has a very special opportunity to serve the American people and our country not only in wartime but also in peacetime. And there is not anyone who has sailed any of our lakes or oceans who has not at one time or another been the beneficiary of the faithful service of the Coast Guard.

This is a very ancient service in our country's history. Its first father, the progenitor of so many distinguished acts, Alexander Hamilton, began the Coast Guard as a revenue collecting service, asked the Congress of the United States for appropriations for 10 vessels, the first of which was to cost a total, when fully equipped, of $1,000 and was named the Massachusetts.

The first Eagle was one of our most distinguished warships, and in actions against privateers of France, captured over five vessels, recaptured seven American vessels, had a most distinguished record up to the time it was decommissioned in 1801. A number of Eagles have followed since, and we are glad today to visit the most recent. This is the oldest continuous seagoing service in the United States, stretching back to the beginning of our country, so I want all of you who are cadets to know how proud we are of you.

I hope that you and your fellow Americans realize how vital this service is. You serve our country, as I've said, in peacetime, on ice patrols and weather patrols, in protecting the standards of the merchant marine, in protecting safety at sea. And in time of war you, with the American Navy, as you did in World War II and at the time of Korea, defend our coasts by defending the outermost reaches of the approaches to our country. So we are very delighted to see you.

The mission of the Coast Guard in your manual is to graduate young men with sound bodies, stout hearts, and alert minds, with a liking for the sea and its lore, and with that high sense of honor, loyalty, and obedience which goes with trained initiative and leadership, well grounded in seamanship, the sciences, and the amenities, and strong in the resolve to be worthy of the traditions of the commissioned officers in the United States Coast Guard, in the service of their country and humanity.

This mission has been faithfully carried out and I'm delighted that we have a chance to see today the high quality of the cadets.

The words I like best in this very important mission are "to graduate men with a liking for the sea," and I know that all of you share the great affection we have for that ever-changing ocean upon which we so much depend.

Gentlemen, I have been informed that this constitutes a visit to the Coast Guard Academy which I look forward to making and, therefore, taking advantage of my prerogatives as Commander in Chief, I want to exempt, with the permission of the Superintendent, the Commandant, the Secretary of the Treasury, and various others, we want to exempt all of you from any penalties which you may now carry with you and to tell you that we are proud of you and wish you many years of service in the Coast Guard and in the service of our country.

Note: The President spoke at 10:30 a.m. aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Barque Eagle at the Navy Yard Annex in Washington, after watching the cadets demonstrate the manning of the yardarms and the lines. In his opening words he referred to Douglas Dillon, Secretary of the Treasury; Rear Adm. Willard J. Smith, Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn.; and Adm. Edwin J. Roland, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks Aboard the Coast Guard Training Barque Eagle. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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