President Obama addressed recent controversies plaguing the federal government, including sexual assault within the military, during his commencement address to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Friday.
While praising the military as “the most trusted institution in America,” the president discussed how the rise of sexual assault in the military threatens the strength of the armed services.
“We must acknowledge that even here, even in our military, we’ve seen how the misconduct of some can have effects that ripple far and wide,” he said in his second speech at the Naval Academy’s graduation. “Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong. That’s why we have to be determined to stop these crimes. Because they have no place in the greatest military on Earth.”
He last spoke to a graduating Naval Academy class in 2009.
A military report released earlier this month estimated 26,000 cases of “sexual misconduct”–reported and unreported–occurred in 2012. Democrat Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill recently introduced new legislation to help combat the problem.
As the president called on the graduates to uphold their own integrity even in the face of controversy, he also appeared to allude to the questions facing his administration after it came to light that the IRS had singled out conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for special scrutiny.
“Institutions do not fail, institutions are made up of people, individuals,” he said. “And we’ve seen how the actions of a few can undermine the integrity of those institutions.”
He urged the graduating class of future officers to “constantly strive to remain worthy of the public trust.”
Obama also used the speech as an opportunity to decry the sequester budget cuts, vowing to “keep fighting to end those foolish across the board budget cuts” that are “threatening our readiness.”
The traditional fly-by of the famous Blue Angels that past graduates were treated to was canceled after the group was grounded for the remainder of 2013 because of the sequester.