McCain, left, stands with Vice Admiral Joseph D. Stewart, USMS Superintendent, before delivering the keynote address Monday.
(CNN) - Sen. John McCain graduated fifth from the bottom in his U.S. Naval Academy class and he joked about his “less than exemplary behavior” in a commencement speech delivered Monday at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island.
“As I alluded to earlier, I was not a very impressive midshipman,” McCain told the 213 graduates who have been trained as merchant marine and Naval Reserve officers. “I wasn't a very dedicated student, and I was, to say the least, a discipline problem. The problem was I didn't like discipline.”
McCain also spoke about the qualities of leadership through a story of ship captain, Lt. Commander Eugene Ferrell, who McCain said trusted him with responsibility.
“Commander Ferrell's confidence in me gave me more confidence in myself, and greater assurance that I belonged at sea than I had ever experienced before,” said the Arizona senator, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination. “He was the man who taught me the job my father and grandfather had done. He gave me reason to love the work that they had loved. Debts such as that you incur for life. Leadership is about both shouldering and giving responsibility.”
As a parting gift, McCain was given a custom mariner iPod - an iPod with patriotic and nautical songs that he can groove to while on the campaign trail.
- CNN Political Assignment Editor Marissa Muller