At Naval Academy Graduation, Harris Focuses on Strengthening a ‘Fragile’ World

WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris achieved one other first for girls on Friday when she addressed the graduating class of the United States Naval Academy, changing into the primary feminine graduation speaker within the faculty’s almost 175-year historical past.

The vp’s speech targeted on a few of the Biden administration’s most pressing challenges, just like the coronavirus pandemic, local weather change and a host of more and more subtle cybersecurity threats — occurrences she referred to as “warning shots” that may require a army educated to counter them.

“A gang of hackers can disrupt the fuel supply of a whole seaboard,” Ms. Harris stated. “One country’s carbon emissions can threaten the sustainability of the whole earth. This, midshipmen, is the era we are in — and it is unlike any era that came before.”

The vp’s speech on the Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Md., was her first to focus on the army, and it got here because the Biden administration accelerated its withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, properly forward of the Sept. 11 deadline President Biden set in April.

Ms. Harris has stated that she was the final individual within the room earlier than the president made the choice to drag troops from the nation, almost twenty years after they had been first deployed.

Ms. Harris informed the graduates that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist assault had “shaped your entire life, and it shaped our entire nation.” She stated that the pandemic had equally redefined American life.

“If we weren’t clear before, we know now: The world is interconnected. Our world is interdependent. And our world is fragile.”

Presidents and vice presidents ship graduation speeches to the totally different service academies on a rotating foundation, and Ms. Harris was the primary to return to the Naval Academy since President Donald J. Trump took the stage in 2018 and declared that, after his election, the United States was “respected again.”

While Mr. Trump was targeted on the army incomes the respect and concern of its world adversaries — he informed the graduates in 2018 that the army was “the most powerful and rightful force on the planet” — the present administration has emphasised what Mr. Biden has stated repeatedly:he believes that democracy is reaching an inflection level.

“No class gets to choose the world into which he graduates,” Mr. Biden informed a class of Coast Guard graduates this month. “The challenges you’re going to face in your career are going to look very different than those who walked these halls before.”

Presidents and vice presidents ship graduation speeches to the totally different service academies on a rotating foundation, and Ms. Harris was the primary to return to the Naval Academy since President Donald J. Trump took the stage in 2018.Credit…Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Ms. Harris’s go to was meant to sign that the present White House’s relationship with the army had modified for the reason that Trump period, in ways in which went past her speech: When she arrived in Annapolis, Ms. Harris laid flowers on the grave of Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who, even after his demise, was a frequent goal of Mr. Trump’s. Mr. McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain, endorsed Mr. Biden within the 2020 election, and she or he is alleged to be into consideration for an ambassadorship to the World Food Program in Rome.

Ms. Harris additionally threw in a reference to the Biden administration’s efforts to vaccinate younger folks: “You guys rolled up your sleeves and got vaccinated,” she informed the gang of maskless graduates. “You made it to this day.”

Ms. Harris, the primary girl and individual of colour to be vp, was not the one one that made historical past on the Naval Academy on Friday. Among the graduates on the graduation ceremony was be Midshipman First Class Sydney Barber, the primary Black girl within the academy’s historical past to function brigade commander.

Midshipman Barber, of Lake Forest, Ill., wears a distinctive set of six stripes on her uniform and was been liable for a lot of the brigade’s every day actions, in addition to for the skilled coaching of different midshipmen.

A pair of Midshipman Barber’s shoulder boards are on show in Ms. Harris’s ceremonial workplace, based on a senior aide to the vp. Ms. Harris and the midshipman spoke not too long ago on a personal Zoom name and complimented one another on being the primary Black ladies of their respective roles.

“You may be the first to do many things,” Ms. Harris informed the midshipman, based on an aide who recounted their dialog. “But make sure you’re not the last.”

It has been solely 46 years since ladies got permission to enroll within the service academies, and Midshipman Barber is the 16th girl to have served as brigade commander. The first was Midshipman Juliane Gallina, who led the brigade in fall 1991, when ladies had been nonetheless prohibited from flying warplanes or serving on warships at sea. School data present that Ms. Gallina retired from the Navy as a commander.

“You are the idealists in the truest sense,” Ms. Harris informed the gang. “You are the embodiment of American aspiration. So hold onto that.”

John Ismay contributed reporting.