Remarks of Dr. Jill Biden at the Keel Laying Ceremony of the Future USS Delaware
As Prepared for Delivery
Newport News, Virginia
I would like to start by congratulating the entire Navy–Industry here at Newport News Shipbuilding, and those up north at General Dynamics Electric Boat Division, for your efforts in bringing this sub to life. American shipbuilding is the best in the world. What you do is so vital to our national defense. And it’s as good as you — the welders, riggers, machinists, engineers, metalworkers, electricians — the outstanding tradesmen, specialists and professionals at Newport News.
Governor McAuliffe, Senator Carper and Representatives Scott and Forbes, it is great to be here with you. As well as Vice Admiral Tofalo and all the distinguished Navy officers here today. Commander Brian Hogan, I know this is a special day for you too, and I’m proud to share it with you.
These ceremonies are always special occasions, but the keel laying for this submarine is particularly meaningful to me. As a proud military daughter, military mom and Delawarean, I am honored to serve as its sponsor. It’s been nearly 100 years since the state of Delaware has had a Navy vessel bearing its name. So this a proud day for the first state. And, this great tradition of having civilian-sponsored Navy vessels helps to cement the critical connection between our service members and the civilians back home who love and miss them.
As a military mom and grandmother, there is no one I would rather be with today than you — the ones who stepped up to serve. I am always inspired by the sacrifice and resilience of our military and their families. The sailors who serve as the pre-commissioning crew of this sub, epitomize the ideals of honor, courage and commitment that define the United States Navy. No matter what challenges you face, you serve with courage and distinction.
Forty-eight sailors and seven officers make up the Delaware crew so far. You represent 27 states. Many of your spouses and children — almost 60 kids — are stationed with you in Virginia, including the newest Delaware baby, Jacob. Eighteen of you attended community college. Getting into submarine service is not easy — you have to understand complex systems and undergo intense training. As a community college teacher, it’s always great to see when community college students go on to do exceptional things.
To the crew, I am excited to begin this journey with you and I’m honored to be your shipmate for life. I am deeply committed to serving all of you as well as you serve our country each and every day. You are the reason we have the best, most powerful military in the world. You go places human beings aren't supposed to be able to go — guarding the depths, protecting our seas and our shores. It's a huge sacrifice to leave your family and spend months at a time under the sea, protecting us. It takes a special kind of tough, determined, and smart woman or man, and we need you.
It's our duty to make sure that you have everything you need to stay safe and do your jobs. You need the very best equipment and advanced technology that we can provide, and soon that will include the USS Delaware, thanks to the ingenuity and skill of the shipbuilders before us.
Five years ago this month, when First Lady Michelle Obama and I launched our Joining Forces initiative, our mission was clear: to give all Americans the opportunity to step up and show their support for those who sacrifice so much for our country. In this role, I have been privileged to shine a light on the thousands of families who have taken on these challenges role without complaint.
Today, I am excited to begin a lifelong relationship with this vessel and to see this pre-commissioning crew come together and form the Delaware family, to go through exercises and sea trials, to see the Delaware christened and ultimately commissioned. I’m also looking forward to getting to know your families along the way.
When I spoke to Commander Hogan a few weeks ago, it was more than clear how proud you are, Brian, to lead the crew of the USS Delaware. I also learned that your family has moved twelve times throughout your Naval service and this will be your fifth tour of duty on a submarine.
I’m sure that is also the case for many of the crew members and their families. You all sacrifice so much to keep our country safe. It’s not easy. That’s why I believe we owe thanks every day to those who wear the uniform, but we also owe a debt of gratitude to their families as well. Behind every sailor, is a family — the spouses, children, parents, grandparents and friends.
It’s a great privilege to serve as the sponsor of this submarine, but it’s also very personal. As many of you know, the Bidens are a military family. My son Beau served in the Delaware Army National Guard for twelve years, and deployed to Iraq for a year-long tour in 2009. And, I couldn’t be more proud to have his son, my grandson Hunter here with me today.
The Navy is a big part of my life. My father served in the Navy during World War II. He enlisted just a few months before his 18th birthday, and served as a signalman in the Pacific. I still have his signalman pin. He took me, my mother and four sisters to watch the Blue Angels at Willow Grove Naval Air Station, to the Army-Navy football games, the Fourth of July parades, and on Flag Day there was always a flag waving outside our front door.
It was through these moments that he instilled in all of us a sense of patriotism and pride in the Navy. I’ll never forget seeing as a little girl, his picture in his dress whites, proudly displayed by the front door of my grandmom’s home. Today, that picture hangs in my home.
Now, I’m part of this Navy family with the spouses, the children and crew of the USS Delaware, and all who will build her. Today, I’m truly humbled. This is one of my life’s greatest honors.
Thank you. May God bless our service members and their families.