DeCarol Davis

U.S. Coast Guard Academy Cadet Commencement Address

delivered 21 May 2008

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[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.1

These were the words of Malcolm X.

Classmates, we are a family of volunteers -- a family, whether we like it or not -- here to preserve and to protect our nation and humanity.

For the Coast Guard, "by any means necessary" is not simply a willingness to kill, but more so a willingness to die.

This day marks our legacy. Let us make history.

I know Iím up here today because Iím a nerd, and I managed to be the best number,2 the best piece of paper for the past four years; but Iíd like to think that it's because I have a respect for humanity.

I know I'm also only 22 years old, so Iím not going to get up here and pretend to be some pseudo-righteous overachiever who thinks she knows all the answers. (Yeah.)

But I am here to tell you that I believe in a history and a now that is ours, a history and a now filled with a consciousness of the human condition, filled with a respect for human beings.

I need you to take this moment and see that I am black, see that I am a woman. Iím not going to tell you to close your eyes and imagine anything because we all to need to look this reality in the face. I need you to see that I am human -- just like you, no better, no worse. And if we can accept each othersí humanity, we can make history. (Thank you.)

Humanity is our homeline -- it's our homeland. And classmates, we must remind our nation of the true definition and dynamic of homeland security. Protecting renewable energy is securing the homeland. Protecting the public from terrorists' strike is securing the homeland. Treating all people, whether migrant or felon, with human decency and mercy, is securing the home[land]. Saving lives is securing the homeland.

We must never forget our legacy. We must never forget the freedom and liberty that make us America. We have made a pledge to society that on this earth, to the best of our ability, by any means necessary, we will preserve and protect humanity.

Enemies of the Coast Guard do not all have faces, do not all breathe. Our enemy is any thing, concept, or form willing to hurt human beings. And a recent example of that enemy is Katrina. We fought back with principles of humanity -- exploding justice, respect, and freedom. These principles give our nation a unique strength; and this is the greatest weapon of all.

I simply ask you to think. I ask you to look back on your moments of powerlessness. Look back to that moment where you had to get on your knees and scrub and sweep and mop and wax and buff and buff and buff and rebuff, and buff again, a floor that someone was going to walk on and probably scuff two minutes later. That feeling is what it is to be human.

Humble yourself and accept your humanity -- and don't deny it in others. When you lead your people, exude that understanding of a struggle and a fight -- and fight for them, and be for them.

And in that fight I ask you to remember this family that surrounds you here today. I ask you to remember the shipmate that carried your sea bag during sea trials. I ask you to remember the shipmate who earned a "C" tutoring your "B+." I ask you to remember the shipmate who stayed by your side -- late night, after night, after night, after night, knowing you were always more important than any late rack.3 Remember the shipmate who shined your shoes, the faculty, the coach, the company officer, who made you shine; the parent, the guardian, who always knew you could shine.

This family is the foundation of your humanity. These are the people you respect and who have taught you what it means to respect. These are the people who have helped you to understand everyone's right, as a human being, to be on this earth.

Our history has not yet begun -- and it won't begin until all of us cross this stage.

Today, we become the class that we set out to be four years ago.

Today, we become officers.

Today, we become protectors of the United States' Constitution.

Today, we must acknowledge that we are all human -- and maintain that awareness by any means necessary.

Our history is now.

Shall we begin?


Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

1 Malcolm X, Speech at the Founding Rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity

2 DeCarol Davis graduated at the top of her class from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, earning a degree in electrical engineering and achieving a GPA of 3.96. She was first black female valedictorian of the United States Coast Guard Academy. The list of her achievements includes a 2008 Connecticut Technology Council Women of Innovation Award, selection as a 2006 Arthur Ashe, Jr. Womens Basketball First Team Sports Scholar, and selection to the 2007 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District I College Womenís Basketball First Team.

3 idiomatic for sleeping in, sleeping late(r), usually in the morning

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