On Friday, February 27th, I had the honor of attending President Obama’s speech to the Marines at Camp Lejeune, NC. The President’s speech was great…but different. This was a different Obama than the one I saw during the campaign. He was, in a word…Presidential. He was serious, matter of fact, not lofty or off the cuff, it was not a time for rhetoric or congeniality.
This was a serious Iraq policy speech given in front of people he is ordering into harm’s way. It was the right tone to take. At first I thought the President was uncomfortable facing the sea of camouflage, or that the fact that the audience was told not to applaud was throwing off his easy-handed nature…but that is just the marketing person in me. He showed he had some serious national security cajones, and he brought along a pretty good posse to back him up. Seated behind him on the stage were NSA, General Jim Jones, SecDef Gates, CJCS Admiral Mullen, and General Hejlik the CG of 2MEF.
We were a very small “civilian” counterpart to the audience. I’d say about 250 of us to about 2,000 Marines. I remembered some of my contacts from my days working for the Museum of the Marine and was able to arrange for 6 original Montford Point Marines to come hear the President. These gentlemen, all in their 80’s, were the first African American Marines trained here during WWII in a segregated camp called Montford Point. It was an honor to give them the chance to stand on the same ground they were segregated from and see how far we’ve come in their lifetime.
We also had about 10 Blue Star Families, and representatives from the Beirut Memorial and from Hope for the Warriors there too. We had hoped the President would acknowledge the Beirut bombing as the start of the war on terror, but I suppose his objective was different this time. The speech was interrupted many times by applause and hoorahs (I can’t spell it the way the Marines do it!) despite the directive given at the beginning of the speech. The largest reaction came when he announced that his recently submitted budget included higher pay for the military and increased veteran’s benefits.
I tried my best to work the crowd and share with people the mission of Blue Stars, and the importance of providing a “military family touchstone” to those who make policy that affects us so dearly.
It was a great day…always an honor to hear the President speak, but more so it was inspiring to see the connection Blue Stars can provide this great congregation of patriots.
I’m still in awe…
Here’s a video summary of the speech: