President Obama will deliver commencement speech at Coast Guard Academy May 18

New London - President Barack Obama will deliver the commencement address May 18 at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. said it will be an honor and privilege for the academy to host the president.

"Graduation at the Coast Guard Academy is always a joyous event for all involved, whether it's those of us who are senior in the service, seeing new officers join our ranks, or the parents who are seeing their sons and daughters graduate," he said in a recent interview. "That joyous event is always made even more special by the attendance of our commander in chief."

Matt Lehrich, a White House spokesman, said Monday that the president "looks forward to underscoring the country's gratitude to America's servicemen and women and their families for the sacrifices they make on behalf of their country."

Presidents traditionally address the graduating class at one of the federal service academies on a rotating basis. Obama spoke at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point last year.

President George W. Bush used his 2007 address at the Coast Guard Academy to make the case for the Iraq War, citing recently declassified intelligence to link the war with the fight against al-Qaida. It was the speech that many expected in 2003 when he spoke to the academy's graduating class, two months into the war in Iraq. He briefly mentioned the war on terror then but mostly talked about Africa.

Hosting presidents is familiar territory for the school. Harry S. Truman visited in 1952, and Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton spoke at graduation ceremonies here as well.

"Every commencement is a special occasion, but it is a particularly momentous event when the commander in chief of the armed forces presents the commissions to the Coast Guard's newest ensigns," said Rear Adm. J. Scott Burhoe, academy superintendent. "It's a great opportunity to showcase the Coast Guard Academy and the city of New London."

The 130th commencement exercises are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on Cadet Memorial Field.

j.mcdermott@theday.com

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