WASHINGTON – Vice President Kamala Harris achieved another novelty on Friday by addressing the U.S. Naval Academy graduate class, becoming the first female speaker in the school’s nearly 175-year history.
The vice president’s speech focused on some of the Biden administration’s most pressing challenges, such as the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and a series of increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threats, which she called “traits of alert “that they would require an army trained to fight them.
“A gang of hackers can disrupt the entire coast’s fuel supply,” Ms. Harris said. “A country’s carbon emissions can threaten the sustainability of the whole earth. This, noon men, is the time we are in, and it is unlike any other previous time. ”
The vice president’s speech at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, was the first to focus on the military and occurred when the Biden administration accelerated the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, much ahead of the deadline set on September 11 by President Biden. in April.
Mrs Harris has said she was the last person in the room before the president made the decision to withdraw troops from the country, almost two decades after his first deployment.
Ms. Harris told graduates that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack had “shaped your entire life and shaped our entire nation.” He said the pandemic had similarly redefined American life.
“If we weren’t clear before, now we know: the world is interconnected. Our world is interdependent. And our world is fragile. “
The presidents and vice presidents give introductory speeches at the various service academies on a rotating basis and Mrs. Harris was the first 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 again respected.
While Trump focused on the military gaining the respect and fear of his global opponents (he told graduates in 2018 that the military was “the most powerful and legitimate force on the planet”), the current administration has put emphasis on what Mr. he has said repeatedly: he believes that democracy is reaching a turning point.
“No class can choose the world where you graduate,” Biden told a Coast Guard graduate class this month. “The challenges you will face in your career will look very different from those you have gone through these rooms before.”
Mrs. Harris’ visit must have meant that the current White House relationship with the military had changed since the Trump era, so it goes beyond her speech: when she arrived in Annapolis, Mrs. Harris went lay flowers at the grave of Senator John McCain. , the Arizona Republican who, even after his death, was a frequent target of Trump. Mr McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain, backed Mr Biden in the 2020 election and is said to be in consideration for the World Food Program ambassador in Rome.
Ms Harris also referred to the Biden administration’s efforts to vaccinate young people: “You rolled up your sleeves and vaccinated yourself,” she told the crowd of maskless graduates. “You’ve come this far.”
Harris, the first woman and person of color to be vice president, was not the only person to make history on Friday at the Naval Academy. Among the graduates at the opening ceremony was Sydney Barber, Midshipman First Class, the first black woman in the history of the academy to serve as a brigade commander.
Midshipman Barber, of Lake Forest, Illinois, wears a distinctive set of six stripes on his uniform and was responsible for much of the brigade’s daily activities as well as the vocational training of other men at noon.
A pair of Barberia shoulder boards are on display in Mrs. Harris’ ceremonial office, according to a senior assistant to the vice president. Mrs. Harris and the Marines recently spoke on a private call from Zoom and congratulated each other on being the first black women in their respective roles.
“You may be the first to do many things,” Mrs. Harris told the guard, according to an assistant who explained her conversation. “But make sure you’re not the last.”
It’s only been 46 years since women were given permission to enroll in service academies, and Midshipman Barber is the 16th woman to serve as a brigade commander. The first was Marine Guard Juliane Gallina, who led the brigade in the fall of 1991, when women were still banned from flying warplanes or serving on warships at sea. School records show that Ms. Hen retired from the Navy as commander.
“You are the idealists in the truest sense,” Mrs. Harris told the crowd. “You are the epitome of American aspiration. So take it. “
John Ismay contributed to the reports.