Obama to cadets: It's "a different world"

President Obama waves as he congratulates a cadet during the graduation ceremony at the United States Air Force Academy in Air Force Academy, Colo., Wednesday, May 23, 2012.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

(CBS News) COLORADO SPRINGS, CO. - Combining a patriotic message with a re-election theme, President Obama told over a thousand graduating cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy that they are stepping "forward into a different world."

"You are the first class in nine years that will graduate into a world where there are no Americans fighting in Iraq." He also said "Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to our country," thanks in part to US Air Force personnel.

"And you are the first graduates since 9/11who can clearly see how we'll end the war in Afghanistan."

He said that for the last decade, America has labored under "the dark cloud of war."

"Now, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon," he told the latest crop of Air Force officers.

In his 3rd and final commencement address of the season, President Obama asserted that there's "a new confidence" in American leadership around the world.

"And when people around the world are asked, which country do you most admire, one nation comes out on top: the United States of America."

As the 1,073 graduating cadets seated before him begin their military careers, Pres Obama assured them it can be said with "confidence and pride," that the United States is "stronger, safer and more respected in the world."

He said "we've laid the foundation for a new era of American leadership." He told the cadets they must build on that foundation.

And for the new crop of second lieutenants, Pres. Obama said it means they'll face fewer deployments. "You'll have more time to train and stay ready." He said they'll be "better prepared for the full range of missions you face."

He told the cadets that the U.S. "has been, and will always be, the one indispensable nation in world affairs. "

"This is one of the many examples of why America is exceptional," he said.

After his 27-minute address, President Obama shook the hands and returned salutes from each of the graduating cadets. He stood as the oath of office was administered to America's newest Air Force officers. The band played the Air Force song and then came the long-awaited announcement: "Class of 2012: you are dismissed."

A thousand cadet hats were tossed in the air and the Thunderbirds made a high-speed, thunderous flyover Falcon Stadium in their F-16 jet fighters.

The Commencement ceremony was the start of a two-day swing through Colorado, California and Iowa that includes five fund-raising events for Pres. Obama. According to numbers from his campaign, the events will generate over $3-million for the DNC and his re-election campaign.

The president tomorrow also gives an energy policy speech at a wind turbine plant in Newton, Iowa. It's part of his "to do list" for Congressional action.

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.