The line to check in for security screening was very slow moving. I struck up a conversation with an older couple waiting behind me. He volunteered that he was a World War II veteran and they were going to watch a grandson graduate. I asked if he was excited to hear the speaker and his wife piped up "We didn't tell him until we got here as he wouldn't have come if he had known!" The old gent had been in the Navy in the Pacific Theatre during World War II and was proud to have served. He obviously wasn't enthralled with the present commander in chief.
Yes, we were at the Air Force Academy graduation and President Barack Obama was the commencement speaker. I visited with quite a number of military veterans and about all shared the sentiment of our old Navy vet. Those in uniform, active duty personnel, were more circumspect in their comments. To a person each was properly respectful of the office of President but their praise for the individual was less than effusive.
Personally I was favorably impressed with the speech that President Obama delivered to the graduating cadets. I was expecting a campaign speech but there was little of that. He praised the cadets for their industry and excellence in academics completing a tough four-year course of study. He spoke of the important role that they would be playing in keeping our military the best in the world. The speech was well crafted and masterfully delivered. One would expect no less and the President met that expectation.
Most impressive was the fact that President shook the hand of every cadet as their names were announced. Each rendered a military salute and shook the presidents hand, all 1,074 of them. He even gave a few warm hugs. Well done.
It has been a long military tradition that the President delivers the commencement address to each of the four Academies in turn. In the off years when the president is speaking at one of the other Academies the vice president or an appropriate cabinet officer is selected to deliver the address. Recently it was Vice President Biden's turn at the podium and he did well, especially after his teleprompter was tipped over and broken by a gust of wind. After that VP Biden delivered his remarks off-the-cuff and the speech improved significantly.
Four years ago, President George W. Bush was the commencement speaker and it was obvious that the military loved him. President Obama's crowd was less joyous yet still respectful. There were no student demonstrations of protest. No one carried a sign promoting one cause or another. There was no Rainbow Coalition though I understand that some small number of cadets have declared themselves openly gay now that our military has been directed to allow gays to serve openly. The topic never came up.
Traditionally, the Thunderbirds, the Air Force's precision acrobatic team, makes a low pass over the stadium as graduation is announced and the cadets throw their white wheel hats into the air.
The timing was flawless. Normally the airshow then begins but this time there was a break while the President departed to return to Air Force One and back to Washington D.C. I am sure that security was the reason for the delay but, gee, the President was playing before the hometown crowd. He may even have enjoyed the show.
To be fair I am happy to give credit to our President when he does things well. I do take issue with his administration's record in a couple areas namely aviation and the military that are dear to my heart.
It saddens me to fly in the system and hear mainly silence on the radio. Not long ago the airways were busy, aircraft of all sorts coming and going. General aviation traffic to and from McCook has declined steeply and the ramp now sits mostly empty. One obvious reason is the high price of fuel. Aviation fuel is $5.69 a gallon at McCook and generally more at other locations; some places as much as $7.00 a gallon. Light aircraft get about the same mileage per gallon as your automobile. Jet fuel has also increased as much in price and jets burn more per mile. Flying for pleasure and business has become needlessly expensive.
President Obama pleads that the high fuel prices are caused by "the other guys" but his administration' s actions in shutting down, the Gulf of Mexico production, refusal to allow drilling in Alaska, refusal to allow permitting for drilling on public lands and stopping the XL pipeline project has had a significant effect in causing fuel prices to rise. We all feel the hurt at the gas pump for our private automobiles and I am sure that vacation travel is also severely curtailed. All for the President's unrealistic dream of green energy.
What really gravels me are President Obama's continuing efforts to cut the military budget. Nearly $800 billion has already been excised from the Pentagon budgets over the next ten years. Those cuts have caused the evisceration of virtually every military modernization program previously on the books. Research and development accounts crucial to the next generation of weapons are similarly savaged. Our nuclear assets are aging and no modernization projects are possible due to limited funding. There are plans afoot to dealert our fleet of nuclear tipped ICBM's which have stood the test of time in deterring our enemies. Significant numbers of military personnel are being cut and those remaining are constantly being asked to do more. A real catastrophe looms in January 2013 if the "sequestration" mechanism goes into effect.
Sadly the money being taken from the military budget does not go to savings. Instead that money, and more, is being funneled to social programs designed to buy votes for liberals that believe in ever bigger government. Our country is in trouble and sadly President Obama's every effort is making it worse.
He is right though, it is time for change!
That is how I saw it.