Obama to speak at U.S. Naval Academy commencement

President Barack Obama will return to Annapolis to give the commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy this year, the first time he has spoken to a graduating class of midshipmen since 2009, the White House said Monday.

The address comes at a time of continued transition for the military, as the administration draws down troop levels in Afghanistan in advance of the 2014 exit and the Pentagon is squeezed by government-wide budget reductions.

"It will be an honor and privilege to welcome the 44th president of the United States and Commander-in-Chief back to Annapolis," Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael Miller said in a statement.  The graduating class, he said, "will look to the president for his leadership and wisdom as they get ready for their first assignments."

In 2009, Obama told midshipmen to be on guard against "conventional and unconventional" threats.

Commencement, when academy graduates receive their commissions as ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps, is scheduled for May 24.

Obama gave his first service-academy commencement speech in Annapolis in 2009 -- more than a year before U.S. combat operations ended in Iraq. He drew applause when he said that "as Americans, we reject the false choice between our security and our ideals. We can and we must and we will protect both."

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told members of the academy Class of 2012 that building U.S. strength in the Asia-Pacific region would be for "one of the key projects" of their generation.

In 2011, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates spoke to the graduating midshipmen. Vice President Joe Biden spoke in 2010.

"The president is honored to deliver the commencement address to the graduates of the United States Naval Academy this spring," White House spokesman Keith Maley said in a statement. "The Naval Academy educates some of the finest leaders to serve the nation, and provides its graduating midshipmen with extraordinary skills and character to lead the world’s greatest Navy and Marine Corps."

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