The 2021 graduating class of U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen are entering a new era, a new age and a new epoch with its own challenges and opportunities, Vice President Kamala D. Harris said at the academy’s graduation in Annapolis, Maryland, today.
“Class of 2021, you are prepared for all of this. You are prepared for any threat. And you are prepared for this new era,” the vice president told the audience of more than 1,000 graduating midshipmen.
In her keynote address, Harris told the graduates they would take the same oath to the U.S. Constitution as she did during her vice-presidential swearing in — to support the nation’s Constitution and defend it against all enemies — an oath that has its roots in the founding of our nation. And no matter what changes in our world, the charge in this oath is constant, she said.
Remember that as you walk out into the world, because the world you all are walking into is rapidly changing, Harris said.
“Look at several moments in our nation’s history for perspective,” the vice president outlined. “There was the world before the stock market crashed in 1929. And the world after the world before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. And the world after the world before the Civil Rights Act in 1964. And the world after the world before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. At some of these critical moments, our nation was compelled to take a hard look at both our priorities and our preparedness. Another turning point was September 11. Twenty years ago this year, when airplanes hit the Twin Towers, the Pentagon … and crashed in Pennsylvania. That day shaped your entire life. And it shaped our entire nation. It tested our systems, our structures and our very standing in the world.”
Turning to another significant crisis, Harris said COVID-19, as the global pandemic, has accelerated our world into a new era. It has forever impacted our world and it has forever influenced our perspective.
She added we know now our world is interconnected, interdependent and fragile. “Just think,” she mused. “A deadly pandemic can spread throughout the globe in just a matter of months. A gang of hackers can disrupt the fuel supply of a whole seaboard. One country’s carbon emissions can threaten the sustainability of the whole earth.”
Midshipmen are the experts to handle the crises of the future. With cyber security as an example, Harris said, adversaries have their sights set on our military technology, our intellectual property, our elections [and] our critical infrastructure.
“The ransomware attack by criminal hackers earlier this month — what was the warning shot? In fact, there have been many warning shots,” she said. “So we must defend our nation against these threats. And at the same time, we must make advances in things that you’ve been learning, like quantum computing and artificial intelligence, and robotics that will put our nation at a strategic advantage. You will be the ones to do it, because the United States military is the best, the bravest and the most brilliant … The United States military has been on the forefront of research, development and technological advancement.”
Climate change is a very real threat to our national security, Harris added. “I look at you, and I know you are among the experts who will navigate and mitigate this threat. You are ocean engineers who will help navigate ships through thinning ice, … you are electrical engineers who will soon help convert solar and wind energy into power [and] convert solar and wind energy into combat power.”
“Midshipmen, you are tireless; you are ambitious; you are a fierce fighting force,” the vice president said. “You are idealists in the truest sense; you are the embodiment of American aspiration, so hold onto that because in your career you may witness some of the worst of humanity.”
Promise that you will never forget the best of who we are, Harris said. “[And] that you will never forget the ideals you stand for: Duty, honor, loyalty. Fight for those ideals and fight for our democracy. And remember, our Constitution is not only something to defend, it is a guide for your service. It begins with three simple words: “We, the people — not ‘I,’ but ‘we.’ Our nation was designed to be a team sport, and we are in this together.”