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Monday, April 17, 2006

Bush to Deliver Commencement Speech at Merchant Marine Academy


WASHINGTON - Every year since 1950, the senior class president of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy has written a letter to the president of the United States, asking him to deliver the commencement speech. And, every year since 1950 the president of the United States has declined the invitation — until now.

President Bush announced Thursday that he will deliver the keynote speech to the graduating class of the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., on June 19, making him the first sitting president to visit the institution since its creation in 1943.

Bush will also speak to the graduating classes at Oklahoma State University on May 6, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College on May 11 and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. on May 27.

Those four will be the most college graduations he will have spoken at during his time in office in a single year.

"This is a very exciting event," said Martin Skrocki of the Merchant Marine Academy. "We've never had a U.S. president come to the academy."

Richard Nixon attended a function when he was vice president and Dan Quayle gave a speech to the academy in 1991, when he was vice president.

Bush has good reason to end this presidential embargo. Merchant mariners carry 95 percent of military supplies to the Persian Gulf.

When Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta gave the commencement speech at the academy in 2004, he noted that for nine days following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, mariners transported personnel and supplies such as food from Brooklyn and New Jersey to lower Manhattan.

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