NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) _ President Barack Obama will give the keynote address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s graduation Wednesday in New London, an event that is expected to attract thousands.

The service academy last hosted a president when George W. Bush delivered the 2007 graduation keynote address.

“Obviously we’re very excited and working hard to ensure that the event goes off without a hitch,” said David Santos, spokesman at the academy. “It’s an extremely large crowd that we’re expecting. We’re hoping that the weather holds out. We’ve been planning for this for quite some time. So it’s exciting when the day is finally here.”

Presidents traditionally address the graduating class at one of the federal service academies on a rotating basis, and Obama addressed the U.S. Military Academy class at West Point, N.Y., last year.

The academy has about 1,030 cadets in its four-year program, in which students graduate with a bachelor of science degree and an obligation to serve five years in the Coast Guard.

More than 200 junior officers will be commissioned with the rank of ensign during graduation exercises before reporting for duty on cutters and at sector offices in ports throughout the U.S.

Academy officials said nearly 5,000 could attend. If the weather is bad, the commencement will be held inside a hall.

Officials would not discuss details of security preparations other than to say the academy was working closely with the White House and Secret Service.

Many members of the graduating class responded to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest in U.S. history. Some went to Honduras to help build a children’s center and move 24 orphans out of a state-run facility to a supportive village.

Some cadets marched in Obama’s inaugural parade and one graduate attended the same high school as the president.


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