Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday became the first woman to deliver a commencement address at the graduation ceremony at the US Military Academy in West Point, New York, warning graduates they were “an increasingly unsettled world where long standing principles are at risk.”
In the history-making speech, Harris discussed themes of global security and prosperity, arguing that America’s democratic ideals “inspire billions.”
“In the face of all these challenges, America plays a singular role of leadership,” the vice president told the graduates. “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.”
Taking aim at Russian aggression in Ukraine, Harris called Moscow’s unprovoked invasion “an attack on international rules and norms that have served as the foundation of international security and prosperity for generations.” She also slammed China for “modernizing its military and threatening both the freedom of the seas and rules of international commerce.”
Harris’ comments come as President Joe Biden is seeking a second White House term next year. To date, the pair has leaned heavily on a message of saving democratic values at home and strengthening alliances abroad, even as relations with Russia and China remain contentious.
During Biden’s trip to the G7 summit earlier this month, the group of industrialized nations agreed to counter China’s “malign practices” and “coercion” and pledged to choke off Russia’s ability to finance and fuel its war.
“To the Class of 2023: You join the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen,” Harris said Saturday. “And in years to come, I promise 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.”
Harris previously made history in 2021 as the first woman to give a commencement address at the US Naval Academy. Last year, she spoke at the US Coast Guard Academy’s graduation ceremony.
Biden is expected to address graduates at the US Air Force Academy on June 1.
CNN’s Kaanita Iyer contributed to this report.