President Bill Clinton Speaks To The Naval Academy At Annapolis
May 22, 1998
CLINTON: Thank you very much.
Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you very much. Secretary Dalton, thank you for your
generous introduction and your dedicated service. Admiral
Larson, thank you. Admiral Johnson, General Krulak, Admiral
Ryan (ph), Board
of Visitors Chair Byron (ph), to the faculty and staff of the
academy, distinguished guests, to proud parents and family
members, and especially to the brigade of midshipmen, I am
honored to be here today.
And pursuant to long-standing tradition, I bring with me a
small gift. I hereby free all midshipmen who are on restriction
for minor (OFF-MIKE) offenses.
There was so much enthusiasm. I wonder if you heard the word
... the president has the signal honor of addressing all of
our service academies serially -- one after the other -- in
appropriate order. This is the second time I have had the great
honor of being here at the Naval Academy.
But I began to worry about my sense of timing. I mean, what
can you say to graduating midshipmen in a year when the most
famous ship on earth is again the Titanic.
But then I learned this is a totally, almost blindly,
After all, over in King Hall, you eat cannon balls.
Now for those of you who don't know what they are, they're
not the ones Francis Scott Key saw flying over Ft. McHenry.
They're just huge apple dumplings. Nonetheless, they require a
lot of confidence.
I will try to be relatively brief today. I was given only
one instruction. I should not take as long as your class took
to scale Herndon Monument.
Now, at four hours and five minutes...
... the slowest time in recorded history...
... I have a lot of leeway.
But you have more than made up for it. You have done great
things -- succeeding in a rigorous academic environment; trained
to be superb officers. You have done extraordinary volunteer
work, for which I am personally very grateful.
In basketball, you made it to the NCAA for the second time in
You defeated Army in football last year.
In fact, you were 26 and six against teams from Army this
year. And while I must remain neutral in these things...
... I salute your accomplishments.
Let me also join the remarks that Secretary Dalton made in
congratulating your superintendent.
Admiral Larson has performed a remarkable service
as an aviator, submarine commander, commander-in-chief of the
Pacific, twice at the helm of the Academy. I got to know him
well when he was our commander-in-chief in the Pacific. I came
to appreciate, more than I otherwise ever could have, his unique
blend of intelligence and insight and character, and passionate
devotion to duty.
In view of the incidents on the Indian subcontinent in the
last few days, I think it's important for the historical record
to note that the first senior official of thhat there was a serious potential problem there, and we
had better get ready for, was Admiral Chuck Larson, several
When I asked him to return to the Academy, I thought it was
almost too much, and then I realized it might have been too
little. For he loves this Academy so much, this is hardly tough
duty. He met all its challenges. He taught you Midshipmen to
strive for excellence without arrogance, to maintain the highest
Admiral, on behalf of the American people, I thank you for
your service here, your 40 years in the Navy, your devotion to
the United States. We are all very grateful to you.
I also have every confidence that Admiral Ryan is a worthy
successor, and I wish him well.
As I speak to you and other graduates this spring,
I want to ask you to think about the challenges we face as a
nation in the century that is just upon us and how our mission
must be to adapt to the changes of changing times while holding
fast to our enduring ideals.
In the coming weeks, I will talk about how the information
revolution can widen the circle of opportunity or deepen
inequalities; about how immigration and our nation's growing
diversity can strengthen and unite America or weaken and divide
But nothing I will have a chance to talk about this spring is
more important than the mission I charge you with today: The
timeless mission of our men and women in uniform -- protecting
our nation and upholding our values in the face of the changing
threats that are as new as the century.
Members of the class of 1998, you leave the yard at the dawn
of new millennium and a time of great hope. Around the world,
people are embracing peace, freedom, free markets.
More and more nations are committed to educating all their
children and stopping the destruction of our environment. The
information revolution is sparking economic growth and spreading
the ideas of freedom around the world.
Technology is moving so fast that the top-of-the-line,
high-speed computers you received as plebes today are virtually
In this world, our country is blessed with peace, prosperity,
declining social ills. But today's possibilities are not
Just last week, India conduct a series of nuclear explosive
tests, reminding us that technology is not always a force for
India's action threatens the stability of Asia and
challenges the firm international consensus to stop all nuclear
testing. So again, I ask India to halt its nuclear weapons
program and join the 149 other nations that have already signed
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And I ask Pakistan to
exercise restraint to avoid a perilous nuclear arms race.
This specter of a dangerous rivalry in South Asia is but one
of the many signs that we must remain strong and vigilant
against the kinds of threats we have seen already throughout the
20th century -- regional aggression and competition, bloody
civil wars, efforts to overthrow democracies.
But also, our security is challenged increasingly by non-
traditional threats from adversaries both old and new, not only
hostile regimes, but also terrorists and international criminals
who cannot defeat us in traditional theaters of battle, but
search instead for new ways to attack by exploiting new
technologies and the world's increasing openness.
As we approach the 21st century, our foes have extended the
fields of battle from physical space to cyberspace; from the
world's vast bodies of water to the complex workings of our own
Rather than invading our beaches or launching bombers, these
adversaries may attempt cyber attacks against our critical
military systems and our economic base.
Or they may deploy compact and relatively cheap weapons of
mass destruction -- not just nuclear, but also chemical or
biological, to use disease as a weapon of war.
Sometimes the terrorists and criminals act alone.
But increasingly, they are interconnected and sometimes
supported by hostile countries. If our children are to grow up
safe and free, we must approach these new 21st century threats
with the same rigor and determination we applied to the toughest
security challenges of this century.
We are taking strong steps against these threats today.
We've improved anti-terrorism cooperation with other countries;
tightened security for our troops, our diplomats, our air
travelers; strengthened sanctions on nations that support
terrorists; given our law enforcement agencies new tools. We
broke up terrorist rings before they could attack New York's
Holland Tunnel, the United Nations and our airlines. We have
captured and brought to justice many of the offenders. But we
must do more.
Last week I announced America's first comprehensive strategy
to control international crime and bring criminals, terrorists
and money launderers to justice.
Today I come before you to announce three new initiatives --
the first broadly directed at combating terrorism; the other two
addressing two potential threats from terrorists and hostile
nations -- attacks on our computer networks and other critical
systems upon which our society depends and attacks using
On all of these efforts we will need the help of the Navy and
the Marines. Your service will be critical in combating these
To make these three initiatives work, we must have the
concerted efforts of a whole range of federal agencies, from the
armed forces to law enforcement, to intelligence, to public
I am appointing a national coordinator for security,
infrastructure protection and counterterrorism, to bring the
full force of all our resources to bear swiftly and effectively.
First, we will use our new integrated approach to
intensify the fight against all forms of terrorism, to capture
terrorists no matter where they hide, to work with other nations
to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries overseas, to respond rapidly
and effectively to protect Americans from terrorism at home and
Second, we will launch a comprehensive plan to detect, deter
and defend against attacks on our critical infrastructures --
our power systems, water supplies, police, fire and medical
services, air traffic control, financial services, telephone
systems and computer networks.
Just 15 years ago, these infrastructures -- some within
government, some in the private sector -- were separate and
distinct. Now they are linked together over vast computer
electronic networks, greatly increasing our productivity but
also making us much more vulnerable to disruption.
Three days ago, we saw the enormous impact of a single failed
electronic link when a satellite malfunction disabled pagers,
ATMs, credit card systems and TV and radio networks all around
Beyond such accidents, intentional attacks against our
critical systems already are underway. Hackers break into
government and business computers. They can raid banks, run up
credit card charges, extort money by threats to unleash computer
If we fail to take strong action, then terrorists, criminals
and hostile regimes could invade and paralyze these vital
systems, disrupting commerce, threatening health, weakening our
capacity to function in a crisis.
In response to these concerns, I established a commission
chaired by retired General Tom Marsh (ph) to assess the
vulnerability of our critical infrastructures.
They returned with a pointed conclusion. Our
vulnerability, particularly to cyber attacks, is real and
growing. And I made important recommendations that we will now
implement to put us ahead of the danger curve.
We have the best trained, best equipped, best prepared armed
forces in history, but as ever, we must be ready to fight the
next war, not the last one. And our military, as strong as it
is, cannot meet these challenges alone. Because so many key
components of our society are operated by the private sector, we
must create a genuine public-private partnership to protect
America in the 21st century.
Together, we can find and reduce the vulnerabilities to
attack in all critical sectors. Develop warning systems,
including a national center to alert us to attacks. Increase
our cooperation with friendly nations, and create the means to
minimize damage and rapidly recover, in the event attacks occur.
We can and we must make these critical systems more secure,
so that we can be more secure. Third, we will undertake a
concerted effort to prevent the spread and use of biological
weapons. And to protect our people in the event these terrible
weapons are ever unleashed by a rogue state of terrorist group
or an international criminal organization.
Conventional military force will continue to be crucial to
curbing weapons of mass destruction. In the confrontation
against Iraq, deployment of our Navy and Marine forces have
played a key role in helping to convince Saddam Hussein to
accept United Nations inspections of his weapons facilities.
But we must pursue the fight against biological weapons on many
We must strengthen the International Biological
Weapons Convention with a strong system of inspections to detect
and prevent cheating. This is a major priority. It was part of
my State of the Union address earlier this year, and we are
working with other nations and our industries to make it happen.
Because our troops serve on the front line of freedom, we
must take special care to protect them. So we have been working
on vaccinating them against biological threats, and now we will
inoculate all our armed forces, active duty and reserves,
against deadly anthrax bacteria.
Finally, we must do more to protect our civilian population
from biological weapons. The Defense Department has been
teaching state and local officials to respond if the weapons are
brandished or used. Today it is announcing plans to train
National Guard and Reserve elements in every region to address
But again, we must do more to protect our people. We must be
able to recognize a biological attack quickly in order to stop
its spread. We will work to upgrade our public health systems
for detection and warning, to aid our preparedness against
terrorism, and to help us cope with infectious diseases that
arise in nature.
We will train and equip local authorities throughout the
nation to deal with an emergency involving weapons of mass
destruction, creating stockpiles of medicines and vaccines to
protect our civilian population against the kind of biological
agents our adversaries are most likely to obtain or develop.
And we will pursue research and development to create the
next generation of vaccines, medicines and diagnostic tools.
The Human Genome Project will be very, very important in this
regard. And again, it will aid us also in fighting infectious
diseases. We must not cede the cutting edge of biotechnology to
those who would do us harm. Working with the Congress, America
must maintain its leadership in research and development. It is
critical to our national security.
In our efforts to battle terrorism and cyber
attacks and biological weapons, all of us must be extremely
aggressive. But we must also be careful to uphold privacy
rights and other constitutional protections. We do not ever
undermine freedom in the name of freedom.
To the men and women of this class of 1998, over four years
you have become part of an institution -- the Navy -- that has
repeatedly risen to the challenges of battle and of changing
technology. In the Spanish- American War 100 years ago, our
Navy won the key confrontations at Manila Bay and off Cuba.
In the years between the world wars, the Navy made tremendous
innovations with respect to aircraft carrier and amphibious
operations. In the decisive battle in the Pacific in World War
II at Midway, our communications experts and code breakers
obtained and Admiral Nimitz seized on crucial information about
the enemy fleet that secured victory against overwhelming odds.
In the Cold War, nuclear propulsion revolutionized our
carrier and submarine operations. And today, our Navy and
Marine Corps are fundamental to our strategy of global
engagement, aiding our friends and warning foes that they cannot
undermine our efforts to build a just, peaceful, free future.
President Theodore Roosevelt put it succinctly a long time
ago. "A good Navy," he said, "is the surest guarantee of
We will have that good Navy because of you. Your readiness,
strength, your knowledge of science and technology, your ability
to properly find and use essential information and above all,
your strength of spirit and your core values honor courage and
I ask you to remember, though, that with these new challenges
especially, we must all as Americans be united in purpose and
Our defense has always drawn on the best of our entire
nation. The armed forces have defended our freedom, and in turn,
freedom has allowed our people to thrive. Our security
innovations have often been sparked and supported over and over
by the brilliance and drive of people in nonmilitary sectors --
our businesses and universities, our scientists and
Now more than ever, we need the broad support and
participation of our citizens as your partners in meeting the
security challenges of the 21st century.
Members of the class of 1998, you are just moments away from
becoming ensigns and second lieutenants. And I have not taken
as much time as you did to climb the monument.
I thank you for giving me a few moments of your attention to
talk to you and our nation about the work you will be doing for
them for the rest of your careers. You will be our guardians
and champions of freedom.
Let me say just one thing in closing on a more personal note.
We must protect our people from danger and keep America safe
and free. But I hope you will never lose sight of why we are
doing it. We are doing it so that all of your countrymen and
women can live meaningful lives according to their own lights.
So work hard, but don't forget to pursue also what fulfills
you as people. The beauty of the natural world, literature, the
arts, sports, volunteer service. Most of all, don't forget to
take time for your personal lives, to show your love to your
friends and, most of all, to your families, the parents and
grandparents who made the sacrifices to get you here; in the
future your wives, your husbands, your children.
In a free society, the purpose of public service -- in or out
of uniform -- is to provide all citizens with the freedom and
opportunity to live their own dreams. So when you return from
an exhausting deployment or just a terrible day, never forget to
cherish your loved ones, and always be grateful that you have
been given the opportunity to serve, to protect for yourselves
and for your loved ones and for your fellow Americans the
precious things that make life worth living and freedom worth
I know your families are very proud of you today.
Now, go and make America proud.
Good luck, and God bless you.