THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY MIDSHIPMEN Bancroft Hall United States Naval Academy Annapolis, Maryland
1:03 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Admiral Lynch, men and women of the brigade, I'm delighted to be here. They say there's no such thing as a free lunch, but I thought as President I'd come here and test the theory. In a few moments I am going to deliver a speech, as Admiral Lynch has already said, to the newspaper editors of our country about our nations purposes in the world specifically about what we should be doing now to promote democracy in Russia and in the other republics of the former Soviet Union.
The struggle to build free societies in those new nations is probably the great security challenge of our age, one of the greatest opportunities the United States will have. And how we do this job in many ways will shape the future that you will have in our Armed Forces.
I believe we must do what we can to support the reform movement and support democracy, a precious commodity anywhere in the world. And this is why my first trip out of the United States as President will be to Vancouver, Canada, this weekend to meet with the Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
The success of the changes that he and the other reformers are advancing will ultimately have an impact on the life of every American, but especially an impact on your lives. If Russia can continue to be a partner with us and address global concerns and dousing the flames of regional crises, then it is less likely that you and the men and women under your command will have to be sent into harm's way during my term or under some future president. I respect the difficulty and the danger of the work that the men and women of our armed services perform.
I understand that in a new way now, because last month I watched the flight operations on the deck of the United States ship Theodore Roosevelt. And I was deeply saddened a few days after I was there to learn that five naval aviators lost their lives returning to the TR from operations in support of our presence in the former Yugoslavia. The conflict in that region and those we see elsewhere remind us that we have entered a new world that will test us in new ways. Our Navy will play an important role in getting us past those tests, as it has throughout our history, to help the men and women in our Navy perform effectively and safely, we will need talented, committed leadership as never before.
Leadership can take many forms. It can be command of a ship or a submarine, of an aviation squadron, or of a naval base. It can show itself in training commander by teaching leadership to the next generation of Midshipmen as your instructors are doing here at the Academy. Whatever form it takes, your leadership will make an important contribution not only to the Navy but to the security of our great nation.
This is a new and a hopeful world, but also one where there is still danger. I want you to know that I'm proud of you and the work you do, and so is the nation you have chosen to serve.
Finally, although I'm sure this doesn't apply to any of you here, I read this little sign. (Applause.) As you might imagine as I travel around the country, I'm used to seeing such signs. (Laughter.) Some of them are not altogether favorable. That's a good part of our democracy, that people feel free to express their views.
One of the most compelling signs that I saw was on the way from the airport the other day in New York State to the home of President Franklin Roosevelt in Hyde Park. And there were hundreds of people standing along the road in eight degree temperature; and one person was holding a sign that said, "Just do something." So that's what I'm going to do.
In the tradition followed by Commanders-in-Chief in visits to the Service Academy, I hereby grant amnesty to the members of the brigade -- (applause) -- the last thing the Superintendent said before I got up here was to finish the sentence so that it would not be a total and complete amnesty -- from all punishments for all 4000 level conduct offenses. And even though this is April Fool's Day, that's not April fools.
Thank you very much, and God bless you all. (Applause.)
END1:09 P.M. EST