THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Secretary Gates, thank you for your introduction. I know I speak on behalf of President 41 when I say it has been a privilege for both of us to serve with this fine and distinguished man.
I want to thank you all for coming. Laura and I are thrilled to be here to help commission an awesome ship and to honor an awesome man: President George H.W. Bush. (Applause.)
To prepare for this day, I went back through some of my father's letters. I thought it was especially interesting to read one that he wrote in the late 1940s. He sent it to a friend -- and here's what he said, he said, "You should see Georgie now. Whenever I come home he greets me and talks a blue streak, sentences disjointed of course." (Laughter.) "He tries to say everything, and the results are often hilarious." (Laughter.) Some things do not change. (Laughter.)
The aircraft carrier which we commission today may be the Navy's newest ship -- but she has already had an interesting past. Her catapult testing took place during an unseasonable cold snap. Her christening was thrown into chaos by a fierce nor'easter. And during construction, the shipyard was closed down because of Hurricane Isabel. So in keeping with this ship's short history, I brought along an equally strong force of nature: my mother. (Laughter.)
Mr. Vice President and Lynne, thank you for joining us. Vice President Cheney has been a fabulous Vice President of the United States. (Applause.) Governor Kaine, thank you for your welcoming remarks. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, I appreciate you joining us. Other members of the administration and their families; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen; CNO Gary Roughead; Captain O'Flaherty; other member of the United States Armed Forces and their families; shipyard workers and managers; members of our family who have joined us, and all the friends of George H.W. Bush: We are glad you are here.
The story of the USS George H.W. Bush begins in the early days of World War Two, when our dad enlisted in the United States Navy. Like many servicemen deployed overseas, he was sustained by a girl he loved back home. From her dorm room, she knitted socks for him. In remote Pacific atolls, he collected seashells for her. And when he returned home from war, the first thing he did was to make her his bride. And for 64 years ago this week, the love of my father's life has been Barbara Bush. (Applause.)
Over the years, our parents have built a family bound forever by closeness, warmth, and unconditional love. Jeb, Neil, Marvin, and Doro and I will always feel blessed to have had the best father anyone could ever ask for. We will always be inspired by the faith, humor, patriotism, and compassion he taught us through his own example. And for as long we live, we will carry with us dad's other lessons: that integrity and honor are worth more than any title or treasure, and that the truest strength can come from the gentlest soul.
George H.W. Bush has the deep love of his family, the admiration of his friends, and the thanks of a grateful nation. So today we are faced with the -- (applause.) So what do you give a guy who has been blessed and has just about everything he has ever needed? Well, an aircraft carrier. (Laughter.) The ship that bears our dad's name is more than 95,000 tons of aluminum and steel. She will carry nearly 6,000 of the finest sailors and Marines in the world. (Applause.) She represents the craftsmanship of many skilled builders, and thousands of hours of preparation. And so I congratulate all of you on this tremendous achievement.
This ship is a fitting tribute to a generation of men with whom my dad was privileged to serve. She's also a tribute to a new generation of American soldiers and sailors and Coast Guardsmen and women, airmen and Marines who have stepped forward to defend the United States America. Again our troops are facing down a brutal enemy. Again they are making America and the world safer. And again they will come home in victory. (Applause.)
People often ask what I treasure most about being the President -- nothing comes close to the honor of being your Commander-in-Chief. Every day, I'm amazed by the skill and courage of our men and women in uniform. And as we send the USS George H.W. Bush into service, I know you will do credit to the sailors who served before you -- and the good man for whom this ship is named. I ask that God protect this ship, and let her know only victory and peace. And I ask God's continued blessings on our wonderful nation. Thank you. (Applause.)
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THE PRESIDENT: I hereby place the United States ship, George H.W. Bush, in commission. May God bless and guide this warship and all who shall sail in her. (Applause.)