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Thank you Colonel McDonough, Mr. Secretary, General Berger and Vice Admiral Buck … it is an honor to share the dais with you today. I want to congratulate our Second Lieutenants … welcome to the Fleet, shipmates!
Class of 2023, starting on I-Day and throughout Plebe Summer, your mettle was tested. At Sparta on the Severn, you learned to follow first and to fully support each other through thick and thin. Morally, mentally, and physically, you proved that you are made of the right stuff – your Plebe Summer Detailers deemed you worthy of the Brigade. And then, upon joining the Brigade, you quickly learned that pain didn’t end with Plebe Summer.
Throughout your four years by the Bay, through blood, through sweat, and through many sleepless nights, you not only paid your dues, but you forged a new you … a resilient, honor-bound, and truly dedicated Naval Academy Graduate.
A moment from now, when you launch your white Midshipmen caps into the air, you should take enormous pride. Take in the majesty of what moment signifies. And then afterwards, take some time today to hug friends, to thank family. Breathe in that Annapolis saltwater-rich air and take stock of this accomplishment.
From now on, when you strut around Annapolis and walk back on the Yard, do so with clear eyes and zero fear … for you are no longer a Midshipman.
Now, as your time “by the Bay” comes to an end, steel yourselves, for another worthy yet grueling journey awaits you. When you swear the Oath of Office and don your new covers with the officer’s crest, you begin the next chapter of your Naval adventure.
Soon you will be putting leadership lessons learned at Luce to the test: on ships, on submarines, on aircraft carriers, in aviation squadrons, at SEAL Teams, and EOD Mobile Units. The burden of leadership no doubt can be trying, but your purpose is unparalleled when you lead in the Armed Services.
The fifth law of the Navy, as you know well remains, “On the strength of one link of the cable … Dependeth the might of the chain … Who knows when thou mayest be tested? … So live that thou bearest the strain!” No matter if your service lasts five or forty years, I challenge you to seek self-improvement every day. In doing so, you improve the fighting position for yourself and your shipmates.
Never forget that while so much depends upon your leadership, your moral courage, and your ability to be decisive at the critical point … you are never alone in any fight and you have friends all around you … serving from the seabed to the skies. I have found that Sailors just want to be led well and treated with respect.
In the end, if you take care of your Sailors and listen to your Chiefs, you will have all the loyalty and wisdom you need to succeed.
Before I administer the Oath, I want you soon-to-be ensigns to take a breath, a pause, and consider the moral undertaking of this commitment: … taking an oath to support and defend the Constitution.
This oath you take is to an idea. Unlike other militaries, we do not swear fealty to a king, or pledge allegiance to a dictator, or commit ourselves to a political faction. We are stewards of the Republic and sworn to this ideal and the promise of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
America’s true source of strength has always been its people. Its true source of strength is you. You have signed on the dotted line to serve our country and defend our Nation’s values … our fellow citizens … and our way of life.
I wish you the best, and I beam with pride as I see such strong men and women of Honor, Courage, and Commitment about to become the next links in the long Blue & Gold chain.
Adm. Mike Gilday
30 May 2023
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