Remarks by The First Lady at The PCU Illinois Christening
General Dynamics Electric Boat Shipyard
12:15 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you all. Well, good morning, everyone.
AUDIENCE: Good morning!
MRS. OBAMA: It’s still pretty cool. (Laughter.) It is my great pleasure to be with you again today.
I want to start by thanking Jeff for that very kind introduction. And I want to thank both Jeff and Matt for their companies’ efforts not just to build this submarine, but for everything they do to strengthen our Navy and our economy.
I also want to thank Secretary Mabus; Admiral Caldwell; Governor Rauner; Senators Reed, Whitehouse, Blumenthal, and Murphy; Representatives Kelly, Langevin, and Courtney. Thank you all for your remarks. Thank you for your support of our men and women in uniform.
And of course, I want to thank the military family members who are here today for all that you all are doing for your servicemembers and for each other every single day. (Applause.) Since this crew was stood up, 16 babies have been born –- way to go! (Laughter.) Sixteen! So I know you all have had some sleepless nights over the past couple of years.
But here’s what makes our military family members so special: you’ve hosted baby showers for every single one of those babies, because you know that most folks are far from home, away from grandma and grandpa, uncles and aunts, and everyone else who you’re close To. So you want to make sure that everyone has a sense of family here with the ILLINOIS. That means dropping everything to take care of a spouse who has been injured. It means hosting movie nights and date nights, and organizing a fall festival. And of course, it means putting in a lot of hours to prepare for events like today.
And I know that so often, your service as family members goes unrecognized –- that folks across the country don’t always see the courage and strength and dedication of our military spouses and our military children. So I want to take a moment to thank you all for everything that you’re doing for each other and for this country. I know these serviecmembers, these sailors couldn’t do what they do without you. So I want us to take a moment just to give our servicemembers’ families a round of applause. (Applause.)
I couldn’t be more excited to be here to christen the ILLINOIS -- my home state. The entire experience of serving as your sponsor has been beyond meaningful, and so fascinating. I’ve learned so much about the incredible power and technology of this submarine. And I’ve been awed by the extraordinary skill and character of those who will operate it.
And the fact is that very few folks in this country understand the details of what you all are doing every single day. So today, I want to take a moment to share that story with people all across America, particularly right now, as you prepare to take this sub out for its first sea trials in a few months.
Now, the last time I was with you, as you heard, the ILLINOIS looked a little different. It was split up into four different modules, spread across three states. And I was standing in front of one of those modules as we laid the keel.
And today, here we are, just 16 months later, standing on top of this marvelous submarine, three stories tall, weighing nearly 8,000 tons, longer than a football field. And it’s really a technological wonder. It is full of technologies like a photonics mast, full of high-resolution and infrared cameras. It has the most advanced stealth, sonar, and communications systems, and enough high-definition screens to put Best Buy out of business. (Laughter.)
And all of this truly is a testament to the talent and skill of the folks who built this boat -– the folks from General Dynamics Electric Boat, the folks from Huntington Ingalls Industries, Newport News Shipbuilding -- and to all of the welders, the machinists, the metalworkers, the electricians, and everyone else in this community, in the communities throughout the country who applied their particular genius to make this ship a reality. You all are amazing, and we can’t thank you enough. So congratulations. (Applause.)
And of course, in order to operate the amazing submarine, we need a crew with superior talent, superior courage, superior skill. And it is clear that the crew of the ILLINOIS more than meets that standard. In fact, our submariners -- and all of our sailors -– are some of the brightest, most highly trained, most courageous folks in this country, hands down. (Applause.)
Just to be accepted to serve on this submarine -- or any submarine for that matter -- you have to have some of the highest scores on your initial aptitude tests. I’ve also heard that this crew’s enlisted advancement rates are remarkable. (Applause.) You’ve distinguished yourselves as one of the highest-performing commands in the entire Navy. (Applause.) And I’m not going to lie, but I love that my adopted boat is the overachiever of the fleet. I like that. So proud. (Laughter.)
And I am just blown away by the things you all can do. You are trained in everything from advanced engineering to oceanography to nuclear physics. You know how to operate some of our most high-tech navigation systems, surrounded by a web of touchscreens and panels and buttons that would make most people’s heads spin.
And whether you’re a lab tech who knows the ins and outs of a nuclear reactor, or a radioman, a sonar technician, or anyone else, the truth is that you are developing technical skills and expertise that few people in the civilian world can compete with, let alone comprehend. And on top of all those professional skills, you all know how to work as a team, to juggle multiple priorities, to keep calm, to think under pressure.
Because when you are 100 feet -- hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean, when you’re surrounded by constant threats, when you’re taking on some of the most sensitive, difficult missions this country has to give -- with all of that going on, you have got to be at your very best every day, every second. And you’ve got to do it not just for yourself, but the sailors serving at your side.
That’s what makes you all so extraordinary. Because you operate on the razor’s edge, and you do it knowing that for months at a time you might not see the sun. You might not breathe fresh air. You might go for weeks without being able to call or text or email your families. That’s the kind of unparalleled service and sacrifice that all of you perform for our nation -- absolutely. (Applause.)
And you all are the reason why, four years ago, Jill Biden and I started our Joining Forces initiative -– because we knew how much you and your families give to our country, and we wanted to give something back -- not just words, but deeds. So we are working to support you both while you’re in uniform and when you leave the service. We want to help you turn those skills into careers when you leave the military. And we want to ensure that you get the education, the health care, and the support of a grateful nation when you leave here. Because you’ve earned it. (Applause.)
That is one of my highest priorities not just as First Lady, but as an American. And it’s something that I will be invested in long after my family leaves the White House.
So today, before we christen the ILLINOIS, I simply want to thank you. Thank you again for everything you do for us, for this country. Thank you for what you do for your families. Thank you to the shipbuilders who support both our security and our economy. Thank you to the servicemembers whose talent and courage is unmatched around the world. And thank you to the family members who inspire me every single day with their own brand of service and sacrifice for this country.
I am so honored to be here with you today to christen your ship. I am so excited to follow your journey in the months and years ahead.
Thank you all so much. God bless you. God Bless our Navy. And God Bless America.
12:27 P.M. EDT