Defense Secretary James Mattis to speak at USMMA commencement

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James N. Mattis, the 26th Secretary of Defense, poses for his official portrait in the Army portrait studio at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, Jan 25, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Monica King/Released)
James N. Mattis, the 26th Secretary of Defense, poses for his official portrait in the Army portrait studio at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, Jan 25, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Monica King/Released)

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis will be the commencement speaker at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point on Saturday, June 16, academy officials announced on Friday.

Superintendent Rear Adm. James Helis said the academy is “extremely honored” to have Mattis speak to graduates this year, which marks the 75th anniversary of the academy’s founding.

“It is especially fitting to have Secretary Mattis – who epitomizes our graduates’ highest aspirations and whose father was a Merchant Mariner – address the Class of 2018,” Helis said.

Mattis had served in the U.S. Marine Corps for more than 40 years, rising to the rank of general. He led an infantry battalion in Iraq during the Persian Gulf War, a division of U.S. Marines in the Iraq War, and commanded the Marine Expeditionary Force and U.S. Marine Forces Central Command during the war on Terror.

Mattis also served as the Commander of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Joint Forces Command.

After retiring in 2013, Mattis was a Davies Family Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Stanford University and co-edited “Warriors & Citizens: American Views of Our Military.”

Normally, a seven-year waiting period would have been required under the National Security Act of 1947 for Mattis’ nomination. The U.S. Senate approved the waiver and his confirmation.

Mattis has been nicknamed both “Mad Dog” for his straightforward talk and military bravado and “Warrior Monk” due to his penchant for remaining a bachelor and careful study of war.

Secretary Mattis has expressed a preference for diplomacy with North Korea, staying in the Iran nuclear agreement, which President Donald Trump recently announced the U.S. would pull out of, caution in Syria, and not banning transgender people from serving in the military.

Mattis has also championed NATO, of which he was once a supreme allied commander, maintaining a strong military, and cited Russian aggression, an emboldened China and terrorism as considerable security threats.

Mattis would not be the first Secretary to speak at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Secretary Elaine Chao of the Department of Transportation – which the academy falls under – delivered a commencement speech in 2017, for example.

Generals, admirals, sitting senators – and even a president – have also spoken at USMMA commencements in the past.

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