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Remarks from Dr. Jill Biden at the USS Delaware christening ceremony

October 26, 2018

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On Saturday, October 20, 2018, Dr. Jill Biden participated in the christening ceremony for the USS Delaware, a new Virginia-class submarine. As the ship’s sponsor, Dr. Biden broke the traditional bottle of sparkling wine across the ship’s bow. She addressed the crew of 136 sailors and their families as well as the workers who built the submarine. Read her speech below. (Remarks are written as prepared and have been condensed for clarity.)

Dr. Biden delivers remarks at the USS Delaware christening ceremony.
Good morning, thank you for being with us today for this very special milestone for the USS Delaware and her crew.

Back in 2012 I visited Lee Hall Elementary School with Admiral Winnefeld, where exceptional teachers were trailblazers by recognizing and supporting military-connected children. So I know how special this Norfolk–Newport News community really is. You take care of each other. You lift each other up.

So, let me begin with a simple thank you and to let you know that Joe and I have had this community top of mind, and you all were in our prayers during the storm that postponed this ceremony originally scheduled for September. And I will always remember your warm hospitality and this special day.

Governor Carney, Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long and Dana, Senator Tom Carper and Martha, and Congressman Bobby Scott — it’s a pleasure to share this event with you.

Today, we will christen the USS Delaware. A little over two years ago, my grandson Hunter and I helped to lay the keel of this impressive vessel. That keel is the backbone that will hold the Delaware steady, give her balance, and steer her straight. This submarine will be strong, like the sailors who make up her crew.

One of my life’s greatest honors is being part of the USS Delaware family and your shipmate for life. But I simply represent the people of Delaware who take great pride in this submarine and will stand by its crew and their families.

The Bidens are a military family. My father served as a Navy signalman during World War II. And our son, Beau, served in the Delaware Army National Guard for twelve years and deployed to Iraq for a year-long tour in 2008.

Over the last nine years, through my work with Delaware Boots on the Ground and with Joining Forces at the White House, I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with hundreds of service members and their families.

At the Biden Foundation, we strive to support our military community, including raising awareness about mental health and wellness, military spouse employment, and military-connected kids.

These families give so much to our country — those service members who wear a uniform, and the spouses and children who do not — and they have inspired and strengthened me through my brightest and darkest hours. They are the reason I am so proud to be your sponsor.

Dr. Biden stands in front of the USS Delaware with its crew of 136 Navy sailors.

The Delaware is 377 feet long. She is capable of submerged speeds of 25 knots. 4,000 ship builders have played a role in bringing her to life. And she is the 18th Virginia class submarine to join the Navy’s fleet.

But here is a number I want you all to remember: 136. There are 136 sailors and officers on this crew. And behind each one of them is the support of family and friends, which allows them to serve our great nation.

From the military spouses who have moved time and time again — reinventing careers every step of the way — to the military children who change schools every few years, to the parents who quietly worry but stand strong while their child is underway for months at a time.

They are the steadiness and continuity for our sailors. They are the quiet force behind this incredible crew. And I want them to know that all of us are behind them, too.

I know it is a tremendous privilege to be selected as a pre-commission crew member, and the sailors standing with us today are the very best the Navy has to offer. In fact, I’m told all of the 1st tour crewmembers here have served on other submarines, and each of them earned their “Dolphins” in under a year. That includes James Urlaub, who was the first to earn his dolphins on board the Delaware.

Between now and its commissioning, this crew will begin to put this ship through its paces, working together as she is placed in the water for the very first time, completing sea trials and a variety of tests to ensure her fitness. I have every confidence in you.

So, before we officially christen her, I want to say thank you, on behalf of the Bidens and the great state of Delaware, to everyone who is with us today.

Thank you to: Jennifer Boykin and Newport News Shipbuilding, as well as Electric Boat, for making today possible; Commodore of Submarine Squadron 6 Captain Martin Muckian; Commanding Captain Brian Hogan; Chief of the Boat Master Chief Ricky Heering; Executive Officer Lieutenant Commander John Ross; Ms. Leslie Hogan, who is serving as our Matron of Honor; and the families and friends of our sailors.

But most of all, thank you to the crew who are beginning a new stage of this journey today. Thank you for the work you do every day, thank you for letting me be part of your family, and thank you for your sacrifice. May you find balance and bearing in the hull of this submarine.

May you lead with distinction. And may you always return safely home. God bless you all.

Dr. Biden breaks a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow of the USS Delaware.