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Speaking to an audience of graduating midshipmen that included one of Sen. John McCain's sons, Mr. Obama pledged "that as long as I am your commander in chief, I will only send you into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy, well-defined goals, the equipment, and the support you need to get the job done."
The commander in chief told an audience estimated at 30,000 that the nation "must overcome the full spectrum of threats. The conventional and the unconventional. The nation-state and the terrorist network. The spread of deadly technologies and of hateful ideologies. Eighteenth-century-style piracy and 21st-century cyberthreats."
In confronting those challenges, Obama vowed to use "all elements of our national power – our diplomacy and development and our economic might and our moral suasion – so that you and the rest of our military do not bear the burden of our security alone."
Obama briefly mentioned the speech he gave Thursday outlining his administration's principles in the war on terror. Former Vice President Dick Cheney delivered a speech the same day with a competing view of the best counterterrorism strategy.
Referring to his own speech at the National Archives, where the Constitution and Bill of Rights are stored, Obama said, "The values and ideals in those documents are not simply words written into aging parchment. They are the bedrock of our liberty and our security." In apparent criticism of Mr. Cheney he said, "we reject the false choice between our security and our ideals."
As is traditional when the commander in chief gives a graduation address at a military academy, Obama absolved midshipmen on restriction for minor conduct offenses. "I did say minor," the president quipped. He also granted all midshipmen who return to the academy in the fall an extra weekend pass.