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New London -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gave short but spirited remarks outside Fort Trumbull this afternoon to formally open OpSail2012CT.
The governor, newly landed from his trip aboard the U.S. Coast Guard barque Eagle, spoke on the important role Connecticut played in the War of 1812 and the armed conflicts that proceeded it. He was joined on the raised platform by a contingent of local and state dignitaries, including Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District.
"Without Connecticut, we might have English accents," Malloy joked to the crowd of spectators gathered atop the fort hill.
Malloy recalled how the nation was "somewhat less than organized" at the outset of the 1812 war, and experienced indignities such as the burning of the White House and the destruction or capture of 27 U.S. ships in Essex Harbor -- the largest American maritime loss until Pearl Harbor.
"Here was are so many years later, stronger and better for it," he said. "In many ways, we are the country the world turns to now to make sure the seas are safe."
The opening ceremony featured a U.S. Coast Guard color guard in 1812-era uniforms and rifles. John Johnson, chairman of the local OpSail committee, served as master of ceremonies.
"May God bless Connecticut. May God bless the United States of America," Malloy said, turning to face Johnson.
"And God bless you sir ... for holding all of our feet to the fire to make sure this came about."
Other officials at the ceremony included state Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford; state Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London; state Rep. Elissa Wright, D-Groton; Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, and Rear Adm. Sandra L Stosz, superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy The ceremony completed, Malloy and Wyman were led down the hill by a revolutionary war unit, the Second Continental Light Dragoons.
The group handed the pair off to the Governor's Horse Guard, although neither Malloy nor Wyman climbed into a saddle today.
Instead the governor slid into a waiting car for the short trip to a mural dedication ceremony downtown. His last scheduled stop in New London was Union Station.
Todd O'Donnell, chairman of the Shore Line East Coalition/One Last Stop, publicly thanked the governor for allowing 23 weekend trains to New London for OpSail weekend. Shore Line East service to New London is normally Monday through Friday only.
O'Donnell and Finizio also thanked Malloy for putting $260,000 in the state budget to start full-time weekend Shore Line East service to New London. That service is to begin next April with five round-trips on Saturday and Sunday.
"We are a tourism driven economy and we need this," O'Donnell said.
The governor said he was glad to help.
"I love New London," Malloy said. "I always have, I always will."
At that moment, a screeching train pulled into the station.
Malloy added: "Some of its greatest days I think are ahead of it, not behind it."