Former Vice President Joe Biden accepted an award for his friend Sen. John McCain, USNA Class of 1958. The 20th annual U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Associations Distinguished Graduate Awards Ceremony was held at Alumni Hall Friday, March 23, 2018.
Former Vice President Joe Biden accepted the Naval Academy Alumni Association's Distinguished Graduate Award on behalf of U.S. Sen. John McCain on Friday, calling the six-term Arizona senator an American hero.
Standing at a podium in Alumni Hall, surrounded by the Brigade of Midshipmen, Biden said the 1958 graduate and prisoner of war has endured the worst of what men can do to fellow men and is now fighting the ugliest disease known to man — cancer.
Last summer McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that killed Biden's son, Beau, in 2015.
"Like my Beau, John has never bent," he said.
He said when McCain dies, the academy will be written on his heart.
"This award means more to John than words can say. This place, this place of honor, duty, service, tradition, is where John's heart resides," Biden said.
Biden, who served with McCain in the U.S. Senate, said his mother used to tell him you are defined by your courage and redeemed by your loyalty — that's McCain, Biden said.
Former Vice President Joe Biden accepted the award for his friend Sen. John McCain, USNA Class of 1958, at the 20th annual U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Associations Distinguished Graduate Awards Ceremony at Alumni Hall Friday afternoon. More @capgaznews pix soon. pic.twitter.com/VNiMg9sHfv
"Not only by the example of our power but the power of our example," he said.
He concluded with what he said McCain would say if he were there, which echoed the closing of the speech McCain gave to the brigade inside Alumni Hall in Oct. 30. The senator has not returned to Washington since leaving in December.
"God bless you. Semper fi," Biden said. "Fair winds, and following seas."
He added another "God bless you," directed at McCain.
McCain was one of six men honored as a distinguished graduate Friday.
Until last year, the guidelines for the award precluded anyone who was still on active duty or serving as an elected official, political appointee or senior executive service personnel.
Retired Adm. Robert Natter, chairman of the alumni association board of trustees, said the guidelines were changed as part of a broader effort to strengthen the award program. Now people who are serving in that capacity and graduated from the academy 45 years ago or more can be honored. McCain graduated nearly 60 years ago.
Every graduate honored has a tie to Annapolis because they attended the service academy, but one was born here — 1956 graduate retired Adm. James Hogg.
Admiral James Robert Hogg, USN retired, talks about his time in Annapolis and the USNA before receiving his award.The 20th annual U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Associations Distinguished Graduate Awards Ceremony at Alumni Hall Friday afternoon.
Hogg said before the ceremony that he spent the first year of his life in Severna Park, while his father was studying at the Naval Post Graduate School, which was located on the yard at the time. He lived on Water Street across from the Severn School, he said.
All he wanted to do in life was follow in his father's footsteps and command a destroyer, he said. His father was also a graduate, so he thought the academy would be a good place to start, and he returned to Annapolis at age 17.
He did get the command of a destroyer — and then a squadron of destroyers, and then a flotilla, and then the entire 7th Fleet.
In a media release, the association said Hogg served a distinguished 35-year career on active duty, followed by 18 years of service as civilian director of the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group. The group's mission was to generate revolutionary operating and warfighting concepts. It was disbanded in 2016 by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson.
Retired Rear Adm. Dave Gove, who served in that group under Hogg between 1999 and 2000, said Hogg did incredible work, leveraging the talents of an entire generation of senior and mid-grade officers. He set his sights 15 or 30 years in the future, Gove said, rather than focusing on the near-term. That long-term thinking allowed him to gain support across a broad spectrum of Navy leaders, Gove said.
"I certainly believe that his effectiveness in defining a future vision made the Navy a more capable and effective force today," he said.
Many of the people who worked for Hogg in the SSG continued on and became Navy leaders in their own right, Gove said.
"He imbued this sort of innovative futurist thinking across a large spectrum of future naval leaders," he said.
Hogg said he contributed to the academy's Curriculum 21 study in 1997 and 1998. He said his contribution was explaining how and why cyberwarfare education was necessary at the academy. And, indeed, cyberwarfare is becoming an increasingly important field in today's military.
Hogg said receiving the Distinguished Graduate Award has brought things full circle — he started his career at the school in 1952, and was now putting a cap on it 65 years later with the award.
"Nothing could be more satisfying, professionally or personally," he said. "My professional roots were planted and nurtured here at the Naval Academy."
Retired Rear Adm. Lawrence Chambers, a 1952 graduate of the school, also was honored. During the evacuation of Saigon in April 1975 while commanding the USS Midway, Chambers ordered millions of dollars worth of helicopters pushed overboard to make room for a two-seat Cessna carrying a South Vietnamese Air Force major, the major's wife and five children, according to the academy's website. He was also the first African-American to command an aircraft carrier.
Former commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet retired Rear Adm. Timothy Keating; former NASA administrator, astronaut and retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden; and former PepsiCo chairman and CEO Steven Reinemund also were honored.