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Remarks on Presenting the Commander in Chief's Trophy to the United States Air Force Academy Falcons

May 07, 2015

Hello, everybody. Welcome to the White House. Please have a seat. And congratulations to this year's winners of the Commander in Chief's Trophy, the Air Force Fighting Falcons. [Applause] Hey!

So this is the Falcons' third trip to the White House in the last 5 years. All told, it is a record 19 times that they have earned this unreasonably large trophy. [Laughter] But if anybody can figure out how to get this thing to where it needs to go, it is the Air Force. [Laughter]

I want to start by recognizing the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh, as well as the Superintendent of the Air Force Academy, Lieutenant General Michelle Johnson. [Applause] Yay! And of course, we've got Coach Troy Calhoun, a graduate of the Air Force Academy himself.

Now, last year at this time, most folks did not think that Coach Calhoun and the Falcons would be here today. They had just come off a less-than-ideal season. [Laughter]

But this year, they came back determined to set a new tone. The Falcons won four of their first five games. In a big win over Navy, quarterback Kale Pearson threw three touchdown passes, and wide receiver Jalen Robinette threw another on a trick play. Three games later, they went to West Point with this trophy on the line. And there, the Falcons defense held Army to just six points to complete the sweep against the academies and take this trophy back to Colorado Springs.

And that was just one of a number of highlights this season. They posted big wins over Boise State and Nevada, Colorado State. When the dust settled, they finished with a 10-and-3 record, a bowl victory, an eight-win improvement from the previous season, which tied for the best turnaround in all of college football. That was quite a season right there.

So this was a total team effort, led by Kale, the team MVP, and guys like offensive lineman Michael Husar and linebacker Jordan Pierce, kicker Will Conant. And we can't forget manager Chris Woychak. [Laughter] Where's Chris? Where is he? There he is. [Laughter] Who became a cult hero with his all-out sprints to get that water bottle—[laughter]—into the huddle. Coach, this guy has speed. [Laughter] Fans started calling him Blue Bolt. We should find some sort of position, slot the guy at wideout or something—[laughter]—because he can move.

So this was quite a season for the Falcons. But my favorite thing about Air Force—and all the academies who come through here—is not just that they win, it's how they win. Last year, they had the highest graduation rate in the conference. Coach recruits guys with at least a 3.5 high school GPA. As cadets, they give back to their community, and obviously, ultimately, they give back to their country.

Alongside preseason training, players complete summer service, leadership training. They volunteered for more than 500 hours at local community organizations. They've taken action to combat and prevent sexual assaults on their campus by joining with a campus organization called Cadet Athletes Against Sexual Violence, and they recorded a video similar to our "It's On Us" campaign. As defensive back Christian Spears said, he would—and I quote—"lay my life on the line for any guy up here. To say that and mean that, it's a real blessing."

And we know that for these players, it's not just words. This week, we honor the tradition of service and sacrifice that has always defined those who wear our country's uniform as we mark the 70th anniversary of V-E Day. Seventy years ago tomorrow, the world celebrated a generation of young Americans who thundered across a continent to liberate a people, young Americans who were willing to lay down their lives for people they'd never met and ideals that we can't live without. From the sands of Africa to the beachheads of Italy and Normandy to the skies over the Pacific islands, young Americans like these guys changed the course of human history and shaped the future of the entire world.

So we honor all our World War II veterans for their courage and their example. We see their character alive and well in a new generation of Americans who have stepped up to serve: the cadets behind me, the midshipmen from the Naval Academy who we've got here today and who teamed up to win this year's Cyber Defense Exercise, the soldiers and marines and coastguardsmen with whom these men will serve once they graduate, every man and every woman who stands post across the country and around the world with pride and with honor and talent and skill.

You are the ones who make the United States Armed Forces the finest fighting force in the history of the world. And as President, I have no greater honor or greater responsibility than serving as your Commander in Chief.

In the months and in the years ahead, these cadets will go on to become officers in our military. They will lead their peers, and that will call on each of you to live up to the example of those who came before you. And wherever you are stationed, I want you to know that this country stands behind you and will strive to serve you as well as you will be serving us. But in the meantime, congratulations on a great football season. [Laughter]

Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your service years to come. Give it up once again to the Fighting Falcons of the Air Force Academy. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

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NOTE: The President spoke at 2:06 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

Barack Obama, Remarks on Presenting the Commander in Chief's Trophy to the United States Air Force Academy Falcons Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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