Coast Guard Academy Prepares To Welcome President Biden
President Joe Biden will be in Connecticut Wednesday for commencement exercises at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London.
Last year, COVID-19 forced the academy to hold a virtual commencement for the first time. But this year’s group of graduating ensigns will be there in person, along with their families.
Cadet first class Bridget Boyle will be one of about 240 graduating ensigns who’ll get to hear the president’s keynote address.
“We have been told: “The only thing you’re allowed to do is shake his hand -- do not give him a hug. Just act normal. Act like it’s anybody else,’” she told Connecticut Public Radio. “It’s a huge honor and a privilege to have the commander in chief here. I’m looking forward to being able to be up on that stage with him.”
Biden won’t be the only person handing over Boyle’s commission. Her uncle, who served 18 years in the Air Force, also will be on the platform.
“Between him and my grandfather, who went to the academy for four years, they showed me that you don’t have to follow a normal path ... you can do something more with your life. You can effect change,” she said. “It’s going to be really special to have him up there with me.”
The in-person ceremony will still employ COVID-19 mitigation measures -- ensigns will sit 6 feet from one another on Cadet Memorial Field, and families will be organized in the stands in pods. And though Wednesday marks the first day in more than a year that Connecticut will have no mask mandate, face coverings will still be required.
The president gives the keynote address at each of the military academies on a rotating basis each year, so the Coast Guard Academy is used to hosting the commander in chief.
New London Mayor Michael Passero says although the city is always happy to host a presidential visit, the event places a burden on its resources.
“We have to dedicate one of our ambulances just to the presidential visit. We have to dedicate at least one fire truck just for this visit,” he said. “And of course, the police personnel will need all of the rolling stock and all of the officers for various assignments, including whether they do a motorcade or not, we have to be prepared for it and have resources stationed.”
Every police officer in the city will be on duty and paid overtime to cover the event.
For the cadets, Wednesday’s ceremony marks the end of their time in New London.
Boyle, a native of Georgia, will serve as a deck watch officer on a 418-foot cutter based in Alameda, California. She’ll report there sometime after she graduates.
WSHU’s Brian Scott-Smith contributed to this report.