President Obama congratulates 812 cadets graduating from Air Force Academy

Cadets toss their hats as the Thunderbirds fly over at the conclusion of the Air Force Academy's graduation ceremony June 2, 2016 at Falcon Stadium. / Mike Duran - FOX21 News
Cadets toss their hats as the Thunderbirds fly over at the conclusion of the Air Force Academy's graduation ceremony June 2, 2016 at Falcon Stadium. / Mike Duran - FOX21 News

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — President Barack Obama called the United States military “by a mile, the strongest in a world” during a commencement speech at the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony Thursday.

The ceremony began just before 10 a.m. The national anthem was played, followed by an invocation by USAFA Command Chaplin Col. Randall Kitchens. Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson and Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James spoke, then the president took the stage. It was his second time speaking at the graduation, and the last commencement speech he’ll give during his presidency.

“I will sleep well at night because I know men and women like you serve to keep us free,” Obama said in the speech.

A few laughs were shared before the President took a serious tone, summing up the strides the country has taken since he’s been in the Oval Office.

After his speech, cadets took the stage, receiving their diplomas and a handshake from the president. After a final singing of the Air Force Song, the Class of 2016 tossed their caps to new beginnings.

“It’s such a great experience, and I definitely couldn’t have gotten here without my parents and family’s support,” graduate Zach Morrow said.

“It took a lot of work,” graduate Jarvis Brown said. “I went through five years of this school and I loved and I also hated it, but it’s a good hate, and I’m glad to be done.”

Thousands of parents, grandparents, friends, and loved ones filled the stadium, gleaming with pride.

“As proud as I’ve ever felt and as happy as I ever could have imagined I could possibly be,” graduate Kaitlin Stephens said.

For the 17 international graduates from places like Tunisia, Jordan, and Pakistan, coming to the U.S. and achieving such a goal is something they’ll cherish forever.

“It’s the best graduation anyone can ask for,” graduate Mohamed Salim Gallala said. “I got to shake the President’s hand, watched the Thunderbirds, and all the cool stuff.”

After four years of hard work and dedication, 812 cadets are entering a new chapter of their lives. More than 300 of them will go to pilot training, continuing to serve our country for another 10 years.

Fast facts about the Air Force Academy Class of 2016: 

  • When this class entered the Academy in June 2012, 1,214 were offered appointments.
  • 1,035 were processed into the Academy in June 2012.
  • 812 will graduate Thursday.
  • 77.6 percent of the graduates are men, and 22.4 percent are women.
  • 60 of the graduates are second-generation graduates of the Academy. Four had both parents attend the Academy.
  • One graduate is the fifth child in the family to graduate from the Academy.
  • Three graduates are the third child in the family to graduate from the Academy.
  • 50 graduates are the second child in the family to graduate from the Academy.

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