USS Ronald Reagan Homeporting Ceremony
Remarks as delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California, Friday, July 23, 2004.
Thank you. It's a real honor to be here to represent [Defense] Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld on this glorious day, this important occasion.
Mrs. [Nancy] Reagan, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, including our many veterans here today ... Captain [James A.] Symonds, officers and members of the crew of the Reagan.
A special welcome to that wonderful Congressional delegation that you just heard from. They are all strong supporters of the Defense Department and the military. And I thank them.
And I would extend a special thanks to the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee [Congressman Duncan Hunter] from whom you just heard. Thank you, Duncan, for your service in uniform, thank you for your service today as Chairman of the Committee, and thank you for your son's service on the front lines in Fallujah and Iraq. [Applause]
Most of all a special welcome and a special thank you to the families of the crew of the Ronald Reagan. Our Navy couldn't be what it is, our military couldn't be what it is, without the support and the sacrifice of families. And I know that one of those sacrifices is being separated from your loved ones for long periods of time. And every speech that we make here is separating you a few more minutes. But this is an important occasion, about which a great deal needs to be said. So bear with us for a few more minutes. Thank you.
Ronald Reagan once said that the closest thing to eternal life on this earth is a government bureaucracy. And those of you who have been to Washington may know that the single largest government building in the District of Columbia is named after Ronald Reagan. I've spoken in that building a number of times, and I've always wondered what that President, that apostle of small government, would think about having that building named after him.
But, ladies and gentlemen, I know how he felt about the US Navy and all the other branches of America's Armed Forces. And there's no doubt about it--this ship is a mammoth government-owned structure. But it's also crewed by the people that Ronald Reagan most liked and admired: those who wear the uniform of this great country. And this ship--like the man for whom it's named--will always be a symbol of valor and human freedom. So I know I am absolutely certain--this is one government project that Ronald Reagan would be thrilled to have his name on. [Applause]
And while we're speaking of things that made Ronald Reagan proud ... Ladies and gentlemen, the nation has seen extraordinary strength from this wonderful lady who is here with us today. Mrs. Reagan, we saw you lead us through a time of sad farewell. Members of our Armed Forces appreciate courage in all its forms, and you have displayed it over and over again. They felt your quiet dignity, your unwavering strength. So on their behalf, let me thank you for your example ... our heartfelt gratitude to you for what you've done during that very difficult time. [Applause]
But it's more than that. Mrs. Reagan always went to the families of our service members in their grief. She sought them out and embraced them, after the tragedies of Beirut and Newfoundland and the USS Stark. Mrs. Reagan, they always felt your love for our Armed Forces. And on behalf of them, we all thank you. [Applause]
During that unforgettable week last month, President Reagan's stories came back to us once again. One of his favorites was the one he told a graduating class of naval officers at Annapolis. It's about the time he was filming that movie that Congressman [Randy "Duke"] Cunningham referred to, "Hellcats of the Navy," the one that had a young woman named Nancy Reagan as his leading lady. "Hellcats" was a movie about a submarine during World War II, and most of it was filmed right here in San Diego. …