President Joe Biden on Friday called on this year’s graduating class at the US Naval Academy to be “defenders of democracy” in an address outlining the many challenges the world and the graduates now face, including Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The President reiterated his oft-used line that the nation faces an “inflection point” as it grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, the global supply chain crisis, inflation, an accelerating climate crisis and Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
“The challenges we face and the choices we make are more consequential than ever,” Biden said at the commencement address in Annapolis, Maryland.
Biden called Putin’s actions “a direct assault on the fundamental tenets of rules-based international order. That’s what you’re graduating into.”
He said the world “more than ever requires strong, principled, engaged American leadership. Where America leads not only by the example of its power, but the power of its example.”
The President touted the importance of working with allies, and said strengthening partnerships around the world is the kind of work the graduates will need to embark on. He noted Asia, a continent he just returned from, in particular is “a region that will be vital to the future of our world.”
He outlined the “global response” to the war in Ukraine, he pointed to the countries standing with the US in placing sanctions on Russia, including NATO countries, Australia, and Japan.
The President spoke in his remarks of Naval Academy graduate former Sen. John McCain, with whom he said he disagreed politically but was a dear friend.
“Being here I can’t help think of John. And how the Naval Academy meant so much to him. He chose these grounds for his final resting place. John was an American hero who withstood torture, years of being held as a prisoner of war, and when he came home – he wanted to continue to serve,” he said.
Biden said, “He always lived by a code, the same code that you all have been taught. It’s not just words, it’s real: Duty, honor, loyalty.”
“I hope you’ll keep the memory of the example of academy graduates like my friend John McCain close in your hearts as you embark on your commissions,” he said.
The President also spoke of his son Beau, who was an Iraq War veteran and died of brain cancer in 2015.
“This education has, at times, pushed the edge of what you thought was possible to develop you morally, mentally, and physically. And it was worth it all because today you stand ready to assume the title you’ve been working toward for so long: Ensign, United States Navy,” Biden said.
“This great academy has prepared you to face any challenge and overcome any obstacle. You are ready. My wish to you is fair winds and following seas,” he said, thanking them for their service.