Remarks to the Midshipmen at the Naval Academy in Annapolis
Gentlemen of the United States Navy:
I must first attempt to tell you how deeply honored I feel in the visit I have been privileged to make here at the Academy this morning. For the friendliness I have seen on your faces, for the warmth of your welcome, both Mrs. Eisenhower and I extend to you our very profound and deepest thanks.
Now, the satisfaction of this visit was just slightly marred, because I was told about this particular part of it, and I must say that my imagination was not quite up to the task of deciding what I could bring to you on a Sunday that was worth taking your time for. I could understand that if I had taken you from a mathematics or an engineering class, there might have been a little different aspect to the case. But today, when it is chow and then what you want to do, probably including your "drags," why it seems a different story.
However, the highest authorities here made sure of one point, that there would at least be a few who would mark my visit and my passing with some satisfaction. And I didn't know that there were that many minor offenders in the United States Naval Academy.
If I could bring to you a message this morning that has any worth to it whatsoever, I think it would be in terms of a sense of values. Possibly, after all these years in the service, years of very great pride in that service, I could bring to you a few thoughts that might be worth considering.
They would be these: the young man facing life equipped as you men are being equipped, is puzzled, sometimes, as to the exact direction, lines, in which he would like to shape his career. He may even decide the service is not for him; he would be happier elsewhere. If that is his decision in the long run, of course, he must go out.
I want to express a few thoughts about a sense of values in these terms: material things pass. Most of us went to chapel this morning where we heard a minister express certain thoughts that I for one carried away with me in a very thoughtful mood. The values that last are of man's spirit.
And, with respect to the satisfaction of a service career, let me give you one fact out of my life that I think is significant.
For a long time I have been associating with what is called the service brats: the son and the daughter of a man that has put in his life in the service of his country. I have yet, in all these years, to have one of those children refer to his father's career in terms of disparagement. I have never heard one of them say, "Oh, my father was just a Captain in the Navy--or a Colonel in the Marines--or in the other services." He has pushed out his chest and he has said it proudly, far more proudly, it has struck me, than has the man who has said, "My father is a merchant"--a very honorable, a very necessary calling in our country. But there is something special about dedicating your lives to the United States of America that lives with you, and what is more important, in my opinion, with your children as long as they shall live.
And so, if in this little homely sort of observation you can find something that will help you straighten out your own planning, based upon a sense of values that means something to you, then I should say my trip here is worth while.
I promised not to take much of your time, and I intend to keep that promise, but I must attempt once more to say how very, very glad I am to be here.
I want to make special reference to the First Class, because on my most recent visit to the Academy, they were Plebes. I want to apologize to them for again appearing here to harangue them. I hope that they will take it in the spirit that I mean: one of tremendous admiration for this body as a whole, for the individuals that make it up.
And my final thought: I congratulate every single man here upon the opportunity lying ahead. They are troublous times. They are difficult times, which makes more important the job of conquering them--doing our part well. There is no great glory in conquering a high school team, but when you beat West Point, you have done something.
Note: The President spoke at 12:45 p.m. in the Mess Hall.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks to the Midshipmen at the Naval Academy in Annapolis Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231810