Coast Guard cadets get close look of the president

President Barack Obama, poses with newly commissioned Ensign Parish Martin Keoni Kaleiwahea, left, and his dad retired Navy chief petty officer Parish Kaleiwahea as they gesture the Hawaiian "shaka" greeting at the 130th Coast Guard Academy graduation in New London, Conn., Wednesday, May 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

May 18, 2011 5:28:04 PM PDT
One graduating U.S. Coast Guard cadet managed to slip the president a prayer from under his sleeve. Another talked about his grandfather, a White House usher. A cadet who went to the same school as the commander-in-chief gave him a kiss.

Another talked about his grandfather, a White House usher. A cadet who went to the same school as the commander-in-chief gave him a kiss.

Cadets were thrilled Wednesday as they made a personal connection with President Barack Obama, who addressed the 229 graduates at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Obama posed for photos with graduates and waved to their well-wishers.

Timothy Nicolet, a graduating cadet from Arizona, said he decided to give the president a prayer as one of his mentors had done for President George W. Bush. As he approached Obama on stage to receive his commission, Nicolet asked if he could give him the prayer, which quoted Jeremiah that the wise should not boast of their wisdom or the strong of their strength, but they can boast they know God.

"He thought it was pretty funny I had it in my sleeve," Nicolet said. "His eyes lit up pretty surprised. I think that's the best thing you can give a president."

Melissa McCafferty of Newbury, Mich., opted for a hug. Obama had praised her during the talk for winning a prestigious scholarship.

"I told the president I voted for you, I was in your inaugural parade and I would be honored if I could give him a hug," McCafferty said. "He said great and gave me a nice hug."

The president also mentioned Jennifer Proctor, a graduate who went to the same high school in Hawaii as Obama.

"Aloha," Obama said when Proctor reached the stage.

"I'm glad I got to kiss the president," Proctor said. "It was bold."

Obama also noted that the grandfather of graduate Patrick Bennett of Capital Heights, Md., was a retired Coast Guard rear admiral who was now chief White House usher. Obama said that sparked a bet about whether the grandfather could fit into his uniform.

""By the way, the uniform still fits," Obama said.

Bennett confirmed his grandfather, Stephen Rochon, won the bet.

When Bennett arrived on stage, Obama told him his grandfather was proud of him, Bennett said.

"Keep up the good work," Obama said.

"Yes sir," Bennett replied.

Bennett said he still couldn't believe he had met the president.

"I was in awe," Bennett said. "I'm still trying to gather it all in."

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