Commencement Address by the Vice President at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning.
To the members of Congress: Senator Jack Reed, Congressman Steve Womack, and Congressman Pat Ryan.
To the Secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth; Chief of Staff of the Army, General James McConville; and Superintendent of the United States Military Academy, Lieutenant General Steven Gilland.
And to the soldiers and officers, and faculty and staff, and distinguished guests:
It is an honor -- truly an honor -- to be with all of you this morning.
And to the cadets of the Class of 2023: Congratulations. You made it. You made it.
You made it through Beast and Buckner, through remote learning and SAMI. You celebrated together at holiday dinners and Ring Weekend. And you beat Navy -- yes, twice. (Applause.)
To make it to today, I am also aware that some of you had to sneak out after Taps to spin Sedgwick's spurs. I will not ask for a show of hands, but for those who did, it clearly worked. (Laughter.)
Cadets, today you come to the end of what I am sure will prove to be 47 of the most challenging and rewarding months of your life. And there are so many people indeed who helped make it to this day.
To the families and loved ones here: Thank you for the incredible care and support you have given these leaders. I know you feel an immense sense of pride looking at our cadets. And it is a pride I share and that our country shares.
On behalf of our Commander-in-Chief, President Joe Biden, and our entire nation -- Cadets, it is my honor to congratulate you on taking your place in the Long Gray Line.
Some of you are the first in your family to graduate from West Point. Others of you have long family legacies here.
If As just one example, in a few minutes, Cadet Mary Bell will walk across this stage. Cheering her on is her mother, Therese, Class of 1986; her father, Michael, Class of 1983; and her grandfather, Peter, Class of 1961.
Also joining us are two of Mary's uncles and three of Mary's cousins -- all graduates of West Point.
So, Mary, as it turns out, you have convened a family reunion here today. (Laughter.)
Also graduating today are Cadets Aaron Hall and Claire Dworsky. (Cheers from audience members.) With a popular cheering fan group right over there. (Laughs.)
Four years ago, as a United States Senator, it was my great honor to nominate them for admission to this Academy. And today, as a point of personal privilege, it is my proud honor to watch them complete this journey.
So, to the Class of 2023 and to all the cadets here today: You stand on the broad shoulders of generations of Americans who have worn the uniform, including many barrier breakers and trailblazer.
In fact, this year, you celebrate the 75th anniversary of the integration of women in the military, as well as the desegregation of our military. (Applause.)
These milestones are a ma- -- a reminder of a fundamental truth: Our military is strongest when it fully reflects the people of America.
West Point: Each and every day, America's service members demonstrate extraordinary skill, dedication, and discipline. They are willing to sacrifice everything to protect the lives and liberty of people they may never meet.
And I believe there is no more noble work that a person can do than to serve our nation in uniform.
And today, then, to the Class of 2023: You join the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen. (Applause.)
Cadets, since R-Day, your first day on campus, the world has drastically changed. A once-in-a-century global pandemic took millions of lives and disrupted life for billions more. America ended our longest war. And Russia launched the first major ground war in Europe since World War Two.
Looking forward to the future, it is clear you graduate into an increasingly unsettled world where longstanding principles are at risk.
In Ukraine, Russia's aggression is an attack on the lives and freedom of the Ukrainian people and an attack on international rules and norms that have served as the foundation of international security and prosperity for generations.
In the Indo-Pacific, China is rapidly modernizing its military and threatening both the freedom of the seas and rules of international commerce.
At the same time, autocrats have become bolder, the threat of terrorism persists, and an accelerating climate crisis continues to disrupt lives and livelihoods.
All a threat to global stability and security.
And here's how I see it: In the face of all these challenges, America plays a singular role of leadership.
Cadets, global security and global prosperity depend on the leadership of the United States of America. And a strong America remains indispensable to the world.
Our democratic ideals of freedom and liberty inspire billions. Our vibrant economy creates unmatched innovation and opportunity and drives global growth.
Our unrivaled network of allies and partners allows us to build coalitions and catalyze global action in a way no other nation can.
And our military is the strongest in the world. Our military is a force that underwrites global stability and our national security.
And it is this pillar of our strength where you, Cadets, have dedicated yourself to lead.
Essential to our strength is the role, then, that you will play in defending our nation's highest ideals.
Because today, of course, is not only a graduation. It is a commissioning.
In just a few moments, you will take an oath -- not to a person, not to a political party, but to the Constitution.
You will take an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America" and, by extension, to support and defend our most sacred ideals: freedom, democracy, and rule of law.
All across the world, the soldiers of the United States Army defend these ideals. And as Vice President, I have seen it firsthand.
In Poland, on NATO's eastern flank, I met with soldiers of the Army's Fifth Corps, who deter threats to the NATO Alliance and stand for freedom across Europe.
In South Korea, at the DMZ, I met with members of the Eighth Army who are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our South Korean allies, protecting their democracy and international rule of law.
And soon, as officers in the United States Army, you will join the ranks of those brave warriors and make your own mark on the world.
So, wherever you go from here, remember your oath. Let it guide you in all that you do, including toward innovation. Because to protect our ideals in the 21st century, the United States military must remain the most innovative fighting force
in the world.
Now, this is where I'm talking to you all based on your generation at this moment in time. So, think about it: From computers, to the Internet, to satellite navigation, our military historically has been on the front -- the forefront of research, development, and technological discovery. Advancements made by our military have not only strengthened our national security, they have helped to improve everyday life for people across the world.
And so, as I look out at you, I know that you will build on that leadership. Because, of course, your generation grew up online. Technology that might be intimidating or unfamiliar to other generations, to you is exciting and intuitive.
You see what can be, unburdened by what has been. And you have the agility and the ability to bring that potential to life.
Here at West Point, you have reinforced, then, those skills. You have trained in cyber, in robotics, in artificial intelligence, and systems engineering.
And now, you will take this experience and apply it as officers. You will enable rapid adoption of new technology into every aspect of war-fighting, which might mean using AI to predict the movements of our adversaries; might mean autonomous vehicles to support and supply our forces; or virtual reality to train our soldiers on new weapon systems.
And as I think about the future of our military, I am particularly optimistic because of you. Because I know you will make sure that as the character of warfare changes, no nation will match the power of America's military -- on traditional battlefields or in future domains. (Applause.)
And let us also be clear: The power of America's military not only rests on our technology, our weaponry, our hardware. It rests on the character and the resolve of our people.
America has no greater resource, no greater strategic asset than the men and women who wear our uniform. Our soldiers are the best trained and most prepared in the world; the most effective, most cohesive, and most lethal warriors in the world.
And as officers, you are about to be granted one of the greatest privileges and most sacred duties that our nation can bestow: to lead American service members.
Cadets, in the not-too-distant future, after you are commissioned and after you complete your Basic Officer Leadership Course, many of you will meet your platoon
for the first time.
So here's what's going to happen: Those soldiers will look in your eyes. They will look into your eyes for resolve, for support, for guidance, and for leadership.
And in that moment, I imagine you will feel some excitement and also, perhaps, some uncertainty.
But know this: You are ready. You have graduated from the preeminent leader development institution in the world. And you have everything you need -- the skills, the knowledge, and the character -- to serve our nation. (Applause.)
And so, know we believe in you and we need you.
For more than two centuries, America has relied on the conscience, the capability, and the courage of West Point officers.
Today, our nation turns to each of you for the strength that you have built here at West Point. The physical strength, the mental strength, the emotional strength, and the strength of character.
And in years to come, I promised you, you will be tried and you will be tested. And I am so very confident that you will rise to each occasion, whatever comes your way.
You are ready, and you are ready because you are true leaders of character.
And so, now, Class of 2023, as your Vice President, it is my profound honor to congratulate you on this tremendous accomplishment and to address you for the first time as graduates of the United States Military Academy.
May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)
Kamala Harris, Commencement Address by the Vice President at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/361905