President Donald Trump will be in Connecticut for the first time since his election, as he addresses graduating cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London Wednesday.
The Academy is used to hosting presidents. Barack Obama spoke twice at commencement in New London during his tenure, and President George W. Bush also visited.
The commander-in-chief sometimes chooses to give hints about policy priorities, or a vision for the mission of the Coast Guard on these occasions. This week, in the midst of multiple White House controversies, the agenda for President Trump’s speech seems less certain.
Second District Rep. Joe Courtney won’t be attending the ceremony as he has in the past. His duties in the House have to take precedence, he said, and his absence doesn’t reflect his views on the commencement speaker.
But Courtney said that the president’s words will matter -- whatever he chooses to speak about.
“Certainly, I think this year the cadets in the audience are going to be listening very closely because there’s been mixed signals from this administration for the mission of the Coast Guard,” Courtney said.
Trump’s budget priorities, which he released in March, proposed a $1 billion cut from the Coast Guard’s approximately $11 billion budget. That would halt construction on replacement cutters and the acquisition of much-needed new icebreaker ships. The formal budget document will be released May 22.
“The budget that the administration produces will really speak volumes about whether or not the president is committed to making sure that these new young officers are going to feel that their future is secure, and that there’s a confidence level that they can accomplish what they’ve trained and worked so hard to do,” Courtney said.
And ahead of Wednesday’s address, the Connecticut representative has some advice for the president.
“You better be on your toes,” he said. “As someone who has been down there a number of times to speak to classes and assemblies, you have to be aware of the fact that you’re dealing with a really high quality, knowledgeable, and discerning audience.”
The commencement ceremony begins at 11:00 am.