Commencement Address by the Vice President at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning, Bears. (Applause.) Good morning to all. Secretary Mayorkas, thank you for your steadfast leadership on so many of our nation's most pressing issues. I am grateful for your dedication to public service for our country and to the safety and wellbeing of our country.
Admiral Schultz, Rear Admiral Kelly, congratulations to you both. I was honored to have some time to talk with you both before we came out. And we truly have a gift in your life of service. Thank you for that.
Governor Lamont, faculty and staff, family and loved ones: It is an honor to be with you this morning.
I am also proud to be joined today by my Military Aide, Lieutenant Commander Lauren Milici, who graduated from this academy in 2009. She is -- (applause) -- yes. She has traveled around the world with me, and this is her last trip. Lauren, I am so thankful for your service.
And to the Class of 2022: Congratulations on this tremendous achievement.
All you have been through, from that first 5:00 a.m. wake-up call during Swab Summer to dipping your rings in the waters of the seven seas at the Ring Dance, you have traveled on this remarkable journey together.
I hope you look to your left and look to your right and know you have made lifelong friendships. You have dedicated yourselves to relationships that will last throughout your career.
And you made it through, together, in such a demanding military training and a rigorous academic program in order to serve your country in the world's greatest Coast Guard.
A Coast Guard, I should note, that has been strengthened, of course, under the leadership of Admiral Schultz, and a Coast Guard, as Admiral Schultz mentioned, that will soon be led by Admiral Fagan, the first woman in history to lead a United States military service. (Applause.)
And to all the parents and loved ones who are here: I know you are feeling an immense sense of pride in these Cadets today. And it is a pride that I share, especially when I talk about them, which I do, with other world leaders.
President Joe Biden and I, well, we view our Cadets as our eyes and ears and hands and hearts wherever you serve, at home or abroad. You are doing the critical work -- you will be doing the critical work to protect our country, to advance our interests, and to shape the trajectory of world affairs.
We applaud you all for all you have done -- as families, as loved ones -- to develop the Cadets that they are today.
I have had the personal honor of working closely with the Coast Guard over the years, from my time as Attorney General of California to being Vice President of the United States. And I know who you all are. I know that you Cadets possess highest level of training, professionalism, and excellence.
And, Cadets, I will then share with you my perspective on where I believe we are in the world today, the work of the Coast Guard, and your role in both.
I will start with how I see the world.
You all graduate into a world that's going to need your leadership -- one that is full of possibility and the promise of progress.
At the same time, the world you graduate into is unsettled. It is a world where long-established principles now stand on shaky ground, where the rule of law in places is strained, where rules and norms are under question.
We see this in Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, where fundamental principles are under threat – principles that are well grounded in the belief that sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations must be respected, the belief that all people have a right to peacefully choose their own leaders, and that borders must not be changed by force.
For a time, it seemed as though these rules and norms would prevail. Now, they are being called into question.
And the challenges we face are broader than Russia.
Around the world, we see additional attempts to undermine the rules-based order: nations that threaten the freedom of the seas, criminal gangs and traffickers who skirt the rule of law and fuel corruption and violence, those that manipulate and undermine the foundations of international commerce.
When I think about protecting the security of the United States and the world, I am clear-eyed. One of our defining missions is to strengthen the international rules-based order -- to defend it, to promote it, and to build on it.
Over time, this order has been tried and this order has been tested. And far too often, I will share with you, I think we have taken it for granted. Frankly, sometimes we forget how rare it is in human history to have a period of relative peace and stability among nations.
We must remember, upholding a system of laws, institutions, and common understandings -- this is how we ensure the safety and security and prosperity of the United States. And this is how we preserve stability in the world.
Cadets, this is where you come in.
In addition to the work you will do at home, you will serve a vital role in advancing our nation's interests abroad.
For example, just last week, in Washington, D.C., I chaired a meeting with nine leaders from Southeast Asia. I spoke with them about the United States Coast Guard -- about you -- with pride.
I informed them that we are sending a new cutter to Southeast Asia to serve as a training platform; that we are sending additional Coast Guard personnel to help them build their law enforcement capacity; and that we are launching new initiatives to crack down on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the region.
(Bells begin to chime.)
These leaders have told me before, and they said again: Ours is a vital partnership. And what I will tell you, as the bells ring, is the presence of the United States Coast Guard is a reminder to the world that we, as the United States, are committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific and that it is a priority for our own national security.
Of course, your influence abroad extends far beyond Southeast Asia. The Coast Guard has more than 60 bilateral and multilateral agreements around the world. When you partner with these foreign governments, you strengthen our global standing.
And to be clear, if our nation is to be strong abroad, we must also be strong at home. And every single American, in addition to you, Cadets, has a role to play in bettering our nation.
Today is a joyous occasion, but it is impossible to ignore that we gather mere days after a horrific act of hate in Buffalo, New York -- another despicable attack in the epidemic, I fear that may be happening, of hate that we must condemn.
I spoke earlier about international rules and norms. But there are also rules and norms that what -- we must, as Americans, hold on to as each other, as Americans -- rules and norms founded in the belief that a harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us; that hate and violence have no place here in America; and that we are -- we are all in this together as one nation, undivided.
I look out at you, Cadets, and I see the very best of America. I see a group of individuals, each with your own life experience -- a group who came together to become a strong, cohesive unit in service of the greater good; a group bound by shared values and the belief that out of many, one. Enter as many, leave as one.
As a nation, we're going to count on you to hold us to that ideal.
Now, as officers in our Coast Guard, you will work together as a unit, of course, to better our nation. And your work every day is going to help ensure the safety, security, and prosperity of the American people.
When you serve on a cutter in the Western Pacific, you will protect the sea and the sea lanes, where billions of dollars of trade flow. And you will support the jobs and livelihood of millions of Americans.
When you serve at port -- a port like Savannah or Long Beach -- you will ensure that families have access to the goods they need, when they need them, at a price they can afford.
This is the connection between the work you do and all that happens around the world, right into what happens in the households of American families.
When you patrol the American shores, looking for drug traffickers, you will help prevent harmful products from reaching our communities.
When you work on critical and emerging areas like cybersecurity and the climate crisis, you will help push our country forward into new frontiers.
In everything you do, you will embody America's values and you will enhance our strength as a nation, which is why your role in both the world and the Coast Guard is so important.
Class of 2020, your lived experience makes you uniquely suited for the task at hand. I don't have to tell you: You are a generation that grew up online. In fact, your class, of course, includes the first graduates in the history of this institution that will have a degree in cyber systems. (Applause.) That's very impressive.
You came of age in a post-9/11 era defined by threats like the climate crisis and a global health pandemic.
You are familiar with a world that, frankly, feels strange and new to so many of us.
And I believe you have the ability to see what can be, unburdened by what has been; to learn from the past, but not be limited by it; to identify new opportunities for our Coast Guard to lead both in today's unsettled world and far into the bright, beautiful future.
We need your perspective, and we need your expertise. In just a few short minutes, you will take an oath and become officers in the United States Coast Guard. And as you do, I ask you: Remember how you feel right now -- your excitement about this journey, your excitement about the world, about your service, about your future. Remember how you feel in this moment, because that will help guide you in each of your assignments ahead.
President Biden and I have great faith in your ability. We know you are ready -- ready to serve. And your country is so proud of you.
Congratulations again. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
Kamala Harris, Commencement Address by the Vice President at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/355980