The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Class of 2013 began their time at Kings Point in the summer of 2009. Earlier that year, I began my time at the U.S. Department of Transportation. And although I have not traveled the world by sea as they have, in many ways we have journeyed together these past four years.
We all came to Kings Point for the first time in 2009. I was still a new secretary—getting to know the families and faculty that make the Academy strong. The men and women of the Class of 2013 were fresh plebe candidates—getting used to their military haircuts and embarking on their journey to leadership.
So it was a particularly great pleasure to attend yesterday's Academy commencement, celebrate the achievements of these 201 fine men and women, and wish them well as they begin their careers as maritime leaders.
More than 2,000 people gathered for this momentous event including Superintendent RADM James Helis; Deputy Superintendent Capt. Susan Dunlap; commencement speaker Gen. William Fraser, commander of the U.S. Transportation Command; parents, friends, and other family members; and, of course, the graduates themselves--all of whom know that a strong maritime industry is essential for a prosperous and safe America.
It starts with the institution that helped them become the leaders they are today.
As I’ve said before, the Merchant Marine Academy is an enormous asset to our nation, preparing its graduates to support our nation’s economic progress and national security on the waterways and open seas.
At DOT, one of our jobs is to make sure the Academy continues to be a model institution that can train the next generation of leaders. As Secretary of Transportation, I’ve visited Kings Point many times over four and a half years. When I first arrived on campus in 2009, I thought Mallory Pier would crumble under my feet. I knew this school deserved more. The Academy community deserved more. The Class of 2013 deserved more.
And so we all came together and we worked to strengthen this institution. We committed ourselves to abide by the Academy motto, Acta Non Verba - "Deeds not words."
Yesterday, I couldn’t have been more proud of what we’ve accomplished together. We have built upon the proud heritage of Kings Point by strengthening and modernizing its facilities. The new training vessel and the reconstruction of Mallory Pier are terrific symbols of our progress these past four years.
Graduation is also a time for looking ahead. And as I proudly watched the graduating class, I knew I was looking at the future—the future leaders of the maritime community. But the Academy produces more than licensed mariners. It builds character and integrity; it produces life-long leaders committed to serving our national interests.
The 201 men and women of the Class of 2013 represent the Academy’s strength in these pursuits. And I know they will remember that as they take on their next challenges. My heartiest congratulations and fondest wishes to all of them!