Larson's class Naval Academy: Tomorrow's commissioning marks departure of a leader, the second time around.


TOMORROW is graduation day at the U.S. Naval Academy. President Clinton plans to deliver the commencement address to the 908 men and women of the Class of '98. These midshipmen and their families should be proud that the students have completed one of the most intellectually, physically and emotionally challenging educations this nation offers.

Adm. Charles R. Larson will join the graduates in bidding farewell to the academy. When this class enrolled as plebes four years ago, Admiral Larson was beginning his second tour as superintendent, the highest ranking officer to oversee the school. He was previously superintendent from 1983-1986.

The Navy asked him to lead the officer training school again to restore a sense of mission and honor that had been eroded by a series of scandals involving cheating, hazing, sexual abuse, drugs and theft.

Just as the newly commissioned ensigns and second lieutenants will launch their careers in the Navy and Marines, Admiral Larson will end his military career 40 years to the month after it began.

His high expectations at Annapolis have resulted in improved behavior and performance. These graduates are the first to have completed his revamped curriculum that stresses leadership, ethics and discipline. A highly charged esprit de corps now pervades "The Yard," as the Annapolis campus is called.

Not all mids have been up to the standards, but the institution is no longer rocked by scandal. Admiral Larson leaves the academy stronger than when he arrived.

As grueling as their educational experience, these new officers may find their future in the armed services even more trying. The post-Cold War world is not a stable place. Academy graduates will be called on to man ships, fly planes and storm ashore should trouble erupt in the Middle East, Asia or Latin America.

These young men and women will put their lives on the line so the rest of us can enjoy ours in peace and freedom.

Pub Date: 5/21/98

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