NEW LONDON, Connecticut President Barack Obama reminded America on Wednesday that the fight to protect the country would demand continued sacrifice, despite the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
"We will never waver in the defense of the country we love," Obama said in a commencement speech at the United States Coast Guard Academy for 229 graduating cadets.
His safeguarding of national security will be a vital part of Obama's re-election campaign message in 2012, and it has been significantly enhanced by the killing of Bin Laden by U.S. commandos in Pakistan earlier this month.
But his administration has taken pains to stress that the country remains at risk and cannot relax its vigilance.
"The hard work of protecting our country -- the hard work goes on, securing our homeland and guarding our shores," the president told the graduating class of the smallest wing of the U.S. armed services.
Obama got a big lift in public opinion polls since the news of Bin Laden's death, although Americans remain wary about a fragile U.S. economic recovery and high gasoline prices.
The president received a huge cheer from his audience when he praised the secret U.S. strike team that carried our the raid.
"Every American can be proud of our great military and intelligence personnel, who made sure the terrorist leader who attacked us on 9/11 will never threaten America again," Obama said.
Although the killing may help Obama promote his national security record, it has strained U.S. relations with Pakistan and created other policy questions.
Bin Laden's death has prompted calls for a review of the U.S. war strategy in Afghanistan, which Washington invaded in response to the September 11 attacks.
Some U.S. lawmakers say the country can pull troops out at a faster pace than planned beginning in July to help cut the multibillion dollar costs of the war at a time of extremely tight budget conditions back home.
Obama made the defeat of al Qaeda his top goal when he rolled out a revamped strategy for the Afghanistan war in 2009 and ordered a 30,000-troop increase.
However, the administration has been careful to lean against hopes for a faster Afghan draw-down, stressing that the fight against al Qaeda goes on despite the death of its leader and to expect revenge attacks in the future.
(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Philip Barbara)