WASHINGTON – Vice President Kamala Harris achieved another first for women on Friday when she addressed the graduating class of the United States Naval Academy, becoming the first woman to speak in nearly 175 years .
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 host of increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threats – events that she called them “warning shots” that would require a trained army to counter them.
“A pirate gang can disrupt the fuel supply to a whole coast,” Ms. Harris said. “A country’s carbon emissions can threaten the sustainability of the entire planet. This, seekers, is the time we find ourselves in – and it is unlike any other time before.
The vice president’s speech at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Was his first to focus on the military, and it came as the Biden administration accelerated the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan , well ahead of the September 11 deadline set by President Biden. in April.
Mrs. Harris said that she was the last person in the room before the president made the decision to withdraw troops from the country, almost two decades after their first deployment.
Ms. Harris told graduates that the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 had “shaped your whole life and shaped our whole nation.” She said the pandemic has redefined American life in the same way.
“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 take turns delivering keynote addresses at various service academies, and Ms. 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”.
As Mr. Trump focused on the military winning the respect and fear of its global adversaries – he told graduates in 2018 that the military was “the most powerful and legitimate force on the planet” – the current administration has pointed out what Mr Biden has said repeatedly: He believes democracy is reaching an inflection point.
“No class can choose the world they graduate from,” Mr Biden told a class of Coast Guard graduates this month. “The challenges you will face in your career will be very different from those who have walked these corridors before.”
Ms Harris’s visit was intended to signal that the White House’s current relationship with the military had changed since the Trump era, in a way that went beyond her speech: When she arrived in Annapolis, Ms Harris laid flowers at the grave of Senator John McCain. , the Arizona Republican who, even after his death, was a frequent target of Mr. Trump. Mr McCain’s widow Cindy McCain endorsed Mr Biden in the 2020 election, and she would be in the study for an ambassador to the World Food Program in Rome.
Ms Harris also referred to the Biden administration’s efforts to vaccinate young people: “You rolled up your sleeves and got vaccinated,” she told the crowd of unmasked graduates. “You have succeeded to this day.”
Ms Harris, the first woman and person of color to serve as vice president, wasn’t the only person to make history at the Naval Academy on Friday. Among the graduates of the opening ceremony was Midshipman First Class Sydney Barber, the first black woman in the academy’s history to serve as a brigade commander.
Midshipman Barber, of Lake Forest, Illinois, wears a distinctive six stripe set on his uniform and was responsible for much of the day-to-day operations of the brigade, as well as the professional training of other midshipmen.
A pair of Aspirant Barber’s shoulder pads are on display in Ms Harris’ ceremonial office, according to a senior assistant to the vice president. Ms Harris and the aspirant recently spoke on a private Zoom call and congratulated each other on being the first black women in their respective roles.
“You might be the first to do a lot of things,” Ms. Harris told the midshipman, according to an aide who recounted their conversation. “But make sure you’re not the last.”
It has only been 46 years since women were allowed to enroll in service academies, and Midshipman Barber is the 16th woman to serve as a brigade commander. The first was Midshipman Juliane Gallina, who led the brigade in the fall of 1991, when women were still not allowed to pilot fighter jets or serve on warships at sea. School records show that Ms Gallina has retired from the Navy as Commanding Officer.
“You are the idealists in the truest sense of the word,” Ms. Harris told the crowd. “You are the embodiment of American aspiration. So hold on to that.
John ismay contribution to reports.