The new Coast Guard cadets are entering a dangerous world of pirates and other threats, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the bright-eyed men and women celebrating their graduation from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy's Wednesday.
"As Coast Guard officers, you will swear to defend our nation against maritime threats, be they small-vessel terrorist attacks, the smuggling of dangerous weapons and drugs, or the scourge of maritime piracy, which in past months we have seen escalate to troubling new levels," Napolitano said during her keynote speech at the academy's 128th commencement.
Piracy has been a big issue this year, especially the dramatic hijacking of the Maersk Alabama.
Napolitano praised the work of several of the 225 class members who already have seen action rescuing the crew of a capsized vessel and taking part in a drug seizure.
Outside the gates, about 20 protesters demonstrated against the United States' continued military presence in Iraq.
That was down from the well over 100 people who showed up to voice either support or opposition to the war effort during Vice President Dick Cheney appearance a year ago.
President George W. Bush gave the address in 2007. Both Bush and Cheney talked about the war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism.