Thank you Secretary Stackley, I want to digress a minute, you’ll note I don’t have any prepared remarks because I’d rather speak from the heart, say what comes to my mind. I remember a great old Senator, Senator John Stennis, he was chairman of the Senate Arms Services Committee and I was a brand new member and he gave me some good lessons. He said, “Senator, just get up there and grab the microphone and put your hand on the stand and look at them and let them look at you because there’s only one hundred of us but 300 million Americans and we decide the rest of the world too, then you can start talking and maybe you will think of something to say.” Well I’ve been thinking a great deal about what I’d like to say, I have a lot on my heart and my mind, but Sean Stacklcy, I want to say something about you, you started on our staff, on the Armed Services Committee, as a matter of fact, the Chief at that time is here, I’m not going to go through names because I just won’ t finish and we’ll never get this submarine to sea, we have in this audience a wonderful group of the civilian staff that worked with me on my personal staff in the Senate, the armed services committee staff, but you exemplify all the great qualities of how you can go through that training in this Senate and come up and do marvelous things in your second and third careers. I thank all the staff that are here today.
I turn now to thank very sincerely, President George Herbert Walker Bush and President George W. Bush. 41 was a sailor, I mean a real one, 18 years old, he was in the Naval Air corps. Flying in the Pacific. I actually signed up for the Naval Air corps. in the fall of ’44 but the pipeline was so jammed up and I wanted to get in so I shifted. On the 20th of January 1945 I enlisted in the Navy. People say, oh, you enlisted in the Navy, that took a special courage. I’ve got to tell you folks, all us 17 year old kids seeing the old boys coming back from the battlefields, frankly we wanted to get the hell out of Dodge and get there with them as fast as we could, so that’s why we enlisted. With no disrespect to the Anny, we weren’t thinking about getting drafted and going in the infantry, we wanted to fly, be in the Navy and do those things, so I enlisted at 17. Literary hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of that generation did the same thing. And it was a marvelous period in my life, and I’ll come back to it. But back to the Bush family, the two President’s; I’m proud with humility in my heart to say that I have been friends with them and together with Bob Gates they made this day possible for me and my lovely wife, whom I get to introduce. So as I sit here and fumble my remarks I’m thinking how I do that right. But I’ll get there. I’ve had the privilege of working with many Presidents but I particularly owe gratitude to those that made possible this day. And to my colleagues in Congress; you all got up and talked very respectfully about the old boy, I want to thank you. But I want to tell you, I laid the keel for some of these guys particularly this guy right here (Ed. Note: He indicated Senator Mark Warner D-VA), he comes out of nowhere when I have a campaign going on and there’s nobody out there opposing me and he comes charging into it. As a result of the bruising I gave you, that laid your keel brother, your keel got laid. 1 see my other colleague, Senator Kaine, very properly sitting next to his lively wife, I owe a great deal to Linwood Holton, we came out of the Navy in World War II, I’d been a Petty Officer Third Class and I was proud of it, he had been a Lieutenant, actual submariner in the United States Navy in the old diesel boats. He is very modest about it but you can read it in his book, he saw it as it is, for submarines. Linwood, you have been a great friend of mine all these years and we ran against each other for a seat in the United States Senate and guess who won? Warner … but with only your support at a key time of the convention did I get that nomination.
Now I got to get back on track here, I just want to thank my Congressional people, the President’s and others. But I want to tum now and talk a little bit about the men and women in unifonn. I had the privilege of talking to these fine officers and gentlemen yesterday, and you all can break ranks and look over here a little bit, I got the podium. But I want to tell you, through you, tell all others, I wouldn’t be here today had it not been for what the United States Navy did for me in training me in World War II. Those were serious times, during my boot camp was lwo Jima, during my A school for electronics was Okinawa and we were all shown raw footage of the battlefront to sober up 17 – 18 year olds and we were told “You are going to be a replacement for the last great battle.” Well we thank god that didn’t happen. But we are a free nation because you and your predecessors, beginning with George Washington, have given your lives and your careers at various times to make the finest traditions of the country what it is. So I always salute the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps for putting in the foundations on which this straggly old teenager finally got his sea legs and went on in life to do whatever it is I’ve done. So think of that on the tough days that, guess what, some day you may be standing here, each one of you. Thank you.
But I want to add a little bit more about the World War II experiences and the seriousness of what this mission will be for this submarine. We draw on those times, we basically knew who the enemy was, what our nation and our allies had to do to defeat that enemy and to establish freedom for the world. But today this ship and its design and its sister ships arc one of the most invulnerable platforms in the entire arsenal in our military. It has in it, every single bit of high technology that can be brought to bear by the magnificent manufacturing base, educational base, and laboratory base in this country. Nothing has been spared such as the crew of the ship, for years and years and decades to come can help preserve our nation’s most valued treasure; and that is freedom.
So this is a special day for all of us and I’m proud to say that that signature will not come off that ship inside, because you see, quietly as we used to say the old submariners say, run deep and run silent carrying out those missions. And it takes a special type of individual to be a submarine sailor. I remember when I was in boot camp, they came through trying to recruit some of us to sign up and get out of boot camp and go right to sub school. And it was tempting because they offered us $10 more a month, we were then getting $50.00 a month, we went to $60.00 and they committed to us that we would have ice cream three times a week aboard the submarine. Now I hope, Commander Caldwell, that that tradition is carried on to this day. But back to the World War JI brethren that Linwood and I and maybe there are one or two others here who served with that generation and the Korean generation. They gave me the strength to go through chapters in my life. When Linwood and I were in school together I guess 70% of them were World War II veterans, we all came home to colleges and universities that were empty and they filled up beginning in 1946 and 1947 with those veterans. And we moved there to law school, at University of Virginia Law School, I’d say 80% of my class were World War II. Then as I went into the workplace we always gravitated together. Then when I got lo be the Navy Secretary, almost to the man and woman (I appointed the first woman Admiral in the Navy; that was little turbulence you see but we got it done). Almost all of the admirals, and general officers of the Marine Corps were World War JI veterans. So my entire life, I have been working with, and trained by and learned from that generation, to achieve such as I have been able to achieve in this great country. So my speech today is basically to say thank you to all those who made it possible that I can stand here, made it possible for this magnificent ship to bear my name and with my lovely wife’s initials there and I’ll finish by having a word about her.
It is essential to remember those who made it possible. I want to say a word about Admiral Hyman Rickover. I was Secretary, he was there, came in to greet me quite properly and we began to form a friendship and it really stuck all through those years. I remember one day, Secretary Laird, Secretary of Defense, said “Bring down the Admiral, I want to have a word with both of you.” So we went down and went through some preliminaries, we were talking about the 688 class at that time and we were going to change the name of the ballistic missile program from ULMS to Trident program and a few other things. Because Laird was a World War II sailor and he had been on a destroyer and had been through the thick of it in the Pacific, he even had a piece of shrapnel in his fanny and on damp days we knew he would be in a mean temperament. Anyway, he said to Admiral Rickover, “Now look here Admiral, you have a wonderful tradition about naming submarines, well Secretary Warner and I want to tell you that we think you ought to make a change in that tradition.” The Admiral said “Well what’s the problem? We talk about nautical themes, the fish and everything else”. Laird said “That is the problem, fish, these submarines are all named for fish, he said, “Dammit, I sit here day after day trying to get appropriations, fish don’t appropriate and fish don’t vote, so stop calling them fish”. Well, Rickover exploded, you know, finally we got around to it. I could go on and on but I know that the day is coming to a close.
I want to thank my family, they are here and I am very proud of a family that have given me support for all these many years through the different jobs that I have. And you mentioned the USS VIRGINIA, a nuclear cruiser, well that little girl who was 12 years old is here today. Will the sponsor of the USS VIRIGNIA nuclear cruiser stand please. Thank you.
I want to again, thank this great nation for all that it has done for me; it is a land of opportunity, second to none in the world, to enable a person such as myself, such as each of you to achieve your goals. And it’s only because of the military that we are able to continue our strong leadership elsewhere and keep that freedom for this country.
So I tum now to my lovely wife, and folks it’s a challenge, first I want to say that I’ve known her for many years and her husband was a very dear and valued friend. Her husband was in the Naval Reserves in the Intelligence part of the Naval Reserves and he worked up from Bull Ensign in that job to a Captain in the United States Navy and proud of it, she is a Navy wife through and through. It was hard for a Petty Officer Third Class to convince her to start all over again with me but she did it and that took courage. They can see in your face the love, kindness and understanding that you have not only given me but my children and the children of so many of her friends. Today she is joined by her matrons of honor up here, friends, this woman is admired universally. Not just by me, but universally.
Like married people we have some differences now and then and the other day we were having a discussion and the voice level began to rise and I was sort of quickly recycling the facts and came to the conclusion that I am now on defense. So I turned to her and I said “Well you are acting like the Chief of the Boat”, we just met the Chief of the Boat and his lovely wife, Chief of the Boat, USS JOHN WARNER. I said, “your acting like one” and she looked at me and she said “you know, you’re right, I’m going to be the Chief of Boat in this house from now on” and now that is the Chief of the Boat.
Let’s go back in history and talk about why it is a woman who is the Sponsor and throughout the maritime tradition, a woman does these things. And I, with you, so many times have sung that song, Eternal Father, strong to save and it concludes, “for those in peril on the sea” intuitively we all know a woman can impart caring and it is that very, very important function that is a tradition of the United States Navy since the first wooden keel was put down. And the antecedent was the Phoenicians, the fisherman, who would go out on long voyages and many never returned or other sailors who sailed the seven seas in the masted sailing ships, many gone for long times, leaving to the wife to care for the family and that same instinctive, unique care this wonderful woman will bring to this ship. I now give you, the Chief of my Boat Jeannie Warner.