Editorial: Providing Coast Guard tools to succeed

We will be watching to make sure President Barack Obama lives up to the assurances he gave in his address to the 2011 graduates of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Wednesday and keeping an eye on Congress as well for any misguided budget cuts that undermine that pledge.

"As your commander in chief, I want you to know that your nation will do everything in our power to help you succeed," the president told the graduates.

Indeed President Obama's budget proposal adheres to that commitment. The Coast Guard is in line to get six more fast-response cutters at a cost of $358 million and two more Maritime Patrol Aircraft at $130 million. The president also seeks to invest $115.5 million in new inspectors, investigators and maritime safety and security teams in support of anti-terrorism and emergency response operations.

Carrying a smaller price tag, but of no less importance, is this administration's increased commitment to help meet the challenges facing Coast Guard families. The fiscal-year 2012 budget includes $29 million to address housing shortfalls and improve access to child care.

Too often Congress and past administrations have turned to the Coast Guard for trimming spending. President Obama has the chance to reverse decades of indifference from Washington and he must, given the importance of the Coast Guard mission.

The president appeared to recognize this, stating that "the complex missions of our Coast Guard have never been more important … we will never waver in the defense of this country that we love."

Featuring maritime symbolism and sprinkled with personal references to the departing cadets, President Obama was more the proud parent than the stern commander in chief.

"Cadets, this is the heritage, this is the tradition that you will carry forward," said the president after referencing the rich history of the Coast Guard. "And I know that you do so with the same sense of purpose, the same sense of patriotism that have defined your days at this academy."

The president acknowledged the academic achievements of the class, including making the academy one of the few schools that for three years consecutively had a student win the prestigious Truman Scholarship, the honor this year going to Cadet Melissa McCafferty. In fact, noted the president, the 2011 grads earned the highest GPA of any class in academy history.

"So these are not just pretty faces," said President Obama, drawing laughter from the cadets and their parents.

And who could deny the president some delight at the expense of birthers and perhaps the no-longer-a-candidate Donald Trump when recognizing a cadet from "my home state of Hawaii."

"In fact, I'm told that Cadet Jennifer Proctor comes from my old high school, Punahou in Honolulu," said President Obama, flashing a broad smile.

In his concluding remark, the president sent a message with meaning not only for the cadets, but all citizens.

"If you stay true to the lessons you've learned on the Thames, if we hold fast to what keeps us strong and unique among nations, then I am confident that future historians will look back on this moment and say that when we faced the test of our time, we stood our watch. We did our duty. We continued our American journey and we passed our country, safer and stronger, to the next generation."

May the nation always make sure the Coast Guard has the needed tools to be "Semper Paratus" — always ready.

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