Navy Graduation June 5 1974

An elated United States Naval Academy graduate after receiving his diploma. President Nixon watches in amusement. 

On June 5, 1974, President Nixon addressed the graduating class of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Having been the first class to study and enter service in a post-Vietnam era, the President detailed the future of American foreign policy to the future naval officers who were preparing to serve at a time of unprecedented peace.

In his instruction, the President warned the graduates of a burgeoning new isolationist thought and criticized its naivete:

Because in our era, American isolation could easily lead to global desolation. Whether we like it or not, the alternative to detente is a runaway nuclear arms race, a return to constant confrontation, and a shattering setback to our hopes for building a new structure of peace in the world.

The United States’ involvement in Vietnam ended, yet the President Nixon saw fit to quote George Washington:

“Without a decisive Naval force we can do nothing definitive. And with it, everything honorable and glorious.”

In a generation without major war and in a world increasingly shrinking and prone to troublesome behavior, President Nixon told the graduates that America still required a strong navy. To accomplish the honorable and glorious–that is, to sustain the cause of peace and freedom worldwide–America needed to maintain a navy both prepared and respected.

The Navy would be one part to the American dream abroad, one part to the fabric that held the peaceful coexistence of all the world’s countries together and unbreakable.

If a structure of peace is to endure, it must reflect the contributions and reconcile the aspirations of nations. It must be cemented by the shared goal of coexistence and the shared practice of accommodation. It must liberate every nation to realize its destiny free from the threat of war, and it must promote social justice and human dignity.

President Nixon believed wholeheartedly that the Navy would be at the forefront of this cause.