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Text of Obama's remarks at military graduation

Wednesday - 5/28/2014, 12:10pm  ET

The Associated Press

A text of President Barack Obama's remarks at the U.S. Military Academy graduation ceremony in West Point, New York, as provided by the White House:

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Good morning. Thank you, General Caslen, for that introduction. To General Trainor, General Clarke, and the faculty and staff at West Point -- you have been outstanding stewards of this proud institution, and excellent mentors for the newest officers in the United States Army. I'd like to acknowledge the Army's leadership -- Secretary McHugh and General Odierno, as well as Senator Jack Reed -- a proud graduate of West Point himself.

To the class of 2014, I congratulate you on taking your place on the Long Gray Line. Among you is the first all-female command team: Erin Mauldin and Austen Boroff. In Calla Glavin, you have a Rhodes Scholar, and Josh Herbeck proves that West Point accuracy extends beyond the three point line. To the entire class, let me reassure you in these final hours at West Point: as commander-in-chief, I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses. Let me just say that nobody ever did that for me when I was in school.

I know you join me in extending a word of thanks to your families. Joe DeMoss, whose son James is graduating, spoke for many parents when he wrote me a letter about the sacrifices you have made. "Deep inside," he wrote, "we want to explode with pride at what they are committing to do in the service of our country." Like several graduates, James is a combat veteran. And I would like to ask all of us here today to stand and pay tribute - not only to the veterans among us, but to the more than 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their families.

It is a particularly useful time for America to reflect on those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom -- for you are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. When I first spoke at West Point in 2009, we still had more than 100,000 troops in Iraq. We were preparing to surge in Afghanistan. Our counter-terrorism efforts were focused on al Qaida's core leadership. And our nation was just beginning a long climb out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Four and a half years later, the landscape has changed. We have removed our troops from Iraq. We are winding down our war in Afghanistan. Al Qaida's leadership in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated, and Osama bin Laden is no more. Through it all, we have refocused our investments in a key source of American strength: a growing economy that can provide opportunity here at home.

In fact, by most measures, America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world. Those who argue otherwise -- who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away - are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics. Think about it. Our military has no peer. The odds of a direct threat against us by any nation are low, and do not come close to the dangers we faced during the Cold War.

Meanwhile, our economy remains the most dynamic on Earth; our businesses the most innovative. Each year, we grow more energy independent. From Europe to Asia, we are the hub of alliances unrivaled in the history of nations. America continues to attract striving immigrants. The values of our founding inspire leaders in parliaments and new movements in public squares around the globe. And when a typhoon hits the Philippines, or girls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine -- it is America that the world looks to for help. The United States is the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed, and will likely be true for the century to come.

But the world is changing with accelerating speed. This presents opportunity, but also new dangers. We know all too well, after 9/11, just how technology and globalization has put power once reserved for states in the hands of the individual, raising the capacity of terrorists to do harm. Russia's aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China's economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with our own, and governments seek a greater say in global forums. And even as developing nations embrace democracy and market economies, 24 hours news and pervasive social media makes it impossible to ignore sectarian conflicts, failing states and popular uprisings that might have received only passing notice a generation ago.

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