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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

USS Ronald Reagan Christened

Aired July 12, 2003 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

RHONDA SCHAFFLER, CNN ANCHOR: What we want to do now, is go right back to Norfolk, Virginia, Nancy Reagan is preparing comments, we want to listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have had the honor to work with you for over the last two years as commanding officer of our pre-commissioning unit. Through this time, I understand why our namesake, President Reagan, often said, "My life really began when I met Nancy." It is indeed fitting that the life of this ship named for president Reagan really begins with your presence here today. Mrs. Reagan, will you join me and make our ship come alive? Ship's company, attention!

(APPLAUSE)

FMR. FIRST LADY NANCY REAGAN: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. I only have one line so -- man the ship and bring her alive.

(IN UNISON): Aye-aye, ma'am!

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here they come. We're going to stand right here and watch.

(MUSIC): "Anchors Aweigh"

(SIRENS)

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, you may take your seats. Honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to serve in your great Navy. USS Ronald Reagan salutes you.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Captain, the ship is manned and ready.

CAPTAIN GOODWIN, U.S. NAVY: Very well. Admiral Malone, USS Ronald Reagan is manned and ready, and I report for duty, sir.

(APPLAUSE)

GOODWIN: Executive officer, break the flag of the vice president of the United States. EXECUTIVE OFFICER: Aye-aye, sir.

Chief signal man, Dwayne Reese (ph), break the flag of the vice president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Break the flag of the vice president of the United States. Aye-aye, sir.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Captain, the flag has been broken.

GOODWIN: Very well. Ship's company, parade rest.

I'd like to introduce the president of Northrop Grumman, Newport News, Mr. Tom Schievelbein. His team is responsible for the design, construction, and maintenance of the most sophisticated ships in the world, nuclear powered aircraft carriers and submarines.

(APPLAUSE)

TOM SCHIEVELBEIN, PRESIDENT, NORTHROP GRUMMAN: Thank you, Captain and good morning everyone. Vice President Cheney, Mrs. Reagan, distinguished platform guests, ladies and gentlemen, and everyone out there who's taking part in this great day for our Navy and for our country, I'm honored to be here representing the ship builders of Northrop Grumman, Newport News, and the Northrop Grumman Corporation. We consider it a great privilege to have built this ship named after President Ronald Reagan, one of America's greatest advocates for a strong sea power. Today, the Ronald Reagan takes her rightful place in the fleet alongside other Newport News built carriers, including the ones behind you today, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Enterprise. For the ship builders, today's commissioning is a joyful, yet somewhat bittersweet event. We've devoted the last five years to the actual construction of the ship and any ship builder will tell you that each aircraft carrier is distinct; it has its own personality. The Reagan is no exception.

In words that also apply to her namesake, the USS Ronald Reagan is a symbol of strength and fortitude, of honor and of pride. There have been many challenges, yet also many accomplishments. Reagan, the ninth ship of the Nimitz-class , has more war-fighting enhancements than any carrier dating back to the original lead ship which was delivered in 1975. These improvements enhance the quality of life for the sailors, provide for a more effective warship and will reduce the cost of the ship over its 50-year life. We are proud to have built this tremendously capable ship. We have come to know well the Ronald Reagan's commanding officer and its crew. I believe everyone knows as tremendously capable as this ship is, it's nothing until the crew -- the captain and the crew, take the ship over.

Captain Goodwin, it was a pleasure working with you and your talented crew. We know that the Ronald Reagan is in great shape and is in great hands. The ship performed well on sea trials, and the teamwork that went into building and testing this ship was outstanding; teamwork on half of the ship builders, our local Navy representatives, the ship's officers and its crew, and indeed, the entire extended Navy community.

Now, as the Ronald Reagan came to life today, I can assure you that as the ship builders and as Americans, we are going to keep a watchful eye on her as she sails the world, serving as an instrument of diplomacy and peace, and if necessary, as we have so recently seen, as a mighty response to war. Captain Goodwin, on behalf of all of us at Northrop Grumman Newport News, I bid you and your crew Godspeed.

(APPLAUSE)

GOODWIN: Thank you, Mr. Schievelbein.

Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Reagan, distinguished guests, family, Harriet, Jonathan, Loren, friends and most importantly the officers and crew of the newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier in the greatest Navy in the world, this is one great day.

(APPLAUSE)

GOODWIN: After almost three years of hard work, you are now the crew of the USS Ronald Reagan.

(APPLAUSE)

GOODWIN: Mr. Vice President and Mrs. Reagan, we are extremely honored with your presence here today. Mrs. Reagan, your words or should I say "your order" to bring our ship to life were the defining moment. I only wish the crew would respond to me like that.

(LAUGHTER)

GOODWIN: On behalf of the crew, thank you very much for joining us today, Mrs. Reagan. The event...

(APPLAUSE)

GOODWIN: The events leading up to and following the ceremony and the crew enhancements aboard our ship are possible because of the dedication of those who volunteer their time and talents to support the sea services, as members of the United States Navy League. Please join me in applauding the Navy League, especially the Hampton Rhodes Council and Santa Barbara, California, Council.

(APPLAUSE)

GOODWIN: Ladies and gentlemen, this day has really been made possible by the 2,966 -- correction, 2,690 sailors in our crew. They are the lifeblood of this great warship. Without the crew, the ship is simply steel plate, miles of cable and wiring, tanks, ladders and a lot of great paint. The crew gives the ship its own personality and war-fighting spirit. The men and women of USS Ronald Reagan exemplify patriotism and what this great country of ours stands for. We take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic and to bear true, faith, and allegiance to the same. Ladies and gentlemen, before you, on the decks of this great warship, stand the officers, chief petty officers, and sailors of the greatest Navy in the world. They are the best our nation has to offer.

(APPLAUSE)

GOODWIN: Thank you, thank you. They come from all over this great country of ours, listen to the places, Los Angeles, California; Thomas, Oklahoma; Lake Wood, Colorado; Stanton, Kentucky; Orangeburg, South Carolina; Johnston, Rhode Island; and Suffolk, Virginia. You will find an ethnic diversity among the crew that typifies our nation. I'm extremely proud to be associated with these outstanding Americans because they are true committed patriots.

Over the years, sailors embrace the term "shipmate." It's a generic greeting when a person's name escapes you. "Shipmate" has different meanings to each and every one of us. It can signify a person who will help you out or simply be someone aboard your ship. My favorite definition is that person you serve with, shoulder to shoulder, good times and bad, someone you can loan a few dollars to and know you'll be repaid. It's a person who takes ownership in their spaces, their equipment, pride in their ship, the United States Navy, and the United States of America.

Men and women of...

SCHAFFLER: All hands on deck, the USS Ronald Reagan is now officially commissioned in a ceremony in Norfolk, Virginia, this morning. Nancy Reagan, the former first lady, was on hand to help commission that new aircraft carrier named for her husband and that's where we find CNN's Kathleen Koch. She is there, as well -- Kathleen

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rhonda, a very exciting day here in Norfolk, Virginia, at the Norfolk Naval Station. Of course, this day has been many years in coming. First of all, the Navy had to change its rules, never before has it named an aircraft carrier after a living president. So, first that had to happen and then this massive ship had to be constructed, that took five years. The ship stands at the water line 20 stories tall, constructed of 45,000 tons of steel. The length of the flight deck is massive, four and a half acres from end to end, just about as long at Empire State Building tall. But, this has been an extraordinarily special day, I think, for the crew of this ship, for the people of the city.

Ronald Reagan was a president who was obviously very special to the military; a very strong advocate of Navy sea power, and vice president Dick Cheney was here, he gave the main address talking about the importance of this aircraft carrier and President Ronald Reagan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, the USS Ronald Reagan becomes the newest member of the greatest Navy ever assembled.

(APPLAUSE)

CHENEY: I want to congratulate everyone who helped to build this ship, everyone who will sail in it, and everyone who will help make it worthy of its great name. The Navy we have today is in many ways a monument to the vision and the conviction of Ronald Reagan. He came to the presidency with a clear understanding of the tools our Navy would need to protect the American people and to defend our interests, to honor our commitments to allies, and to maintain command of the seas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOCH: The, vice president, Cheney quoted President Reagan, a speech he gave on the deck of the USS Constitution -- or Constellation back when he was president in the '80s. The president, Ronald Reagan, at that point saying that the aircraft carrier would be a powerful force in an uncertain world. And, Vice President Cheney said that that certainly applies now to this aircraft carrier bearing Ronald Reagan's name. Now, the former first lady, Nancy Reagan, had very little to say. She did direct the order to bring the ship to life, at which point it did very much come to life, hundreds of sailors racing up on to the deck -- on to the flight deck. The first lady got a special tour of the ship yesterday at which point she shared a little bit more of her thoughts with the media, saying that she was overwhelmed by the beauty of the ship and that she believed that President Reagan, who is supposed to be watching the ceremony live on television today, would certainly be very proud and very pleased. Back to you.

SCHAFFLER: CNN's Kathleen Koch in Norfolk, Virginia, thanks so much.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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