At the U.S. Military Academy West Point commencement ceremony in New York on Saturday morning, Vice President Kamala Harris addressed an enthusiastic crowd of cadets, their families, and friends. With her commencement speech at the service academy, Harris became the first woman to give the address in its 221-year history.
The Vice President acknowledged the support of the graduates’ families and friends in helping get their loved ones to this moment.
“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,” Harris said. “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.”
Harris noted that the military desegregated and integrated women 75 years ago this year while discussing the importance of an inclusive and diverse force.
“These milestones are a reminder of a fundamental truth: Our military is strongest when it fully reflects the people of America,” she said.
“Today...to the Class of 2023: You join the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen,” Harris said to cheers and applause from the graduates seated on the field and the spectators in the stands.
“Looking forward to the future, it is clear you graduate into an increasingly unsettled world where longstanding principles are at risk,” Harris continued.
The vice president warned the graduates of the threats to democratic norms across the world, especially concerns over Russia's and China's military decisions in recent years.
“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," she said. "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,” Harris said, adding, “All a threat to global stability and security."
She said the U.S. is uniquely positioned to help the world confront these issues.
“And here’s how I see it: In the face of all these challenges, America plays a singular role of leadership,” Harris said.
She noted that for more than 200 years, the country has relied on West Point officers for their strength of conscience, capability, and courage.
“Today, our nation turns to each of you for the strength that you have built here at West Point,” she said. “The physical strength, the mental strength, the emotional strength, and the strength of character.”
Harris explained that the challenges that face the world through technology, like artificial intelligence, would be met by skills that cadets learned while at the institution.
“Technology that might be intimidating or unfamiliar to other generations, to you, is exciting and intuitive,” she said. “You see what can be, unburdened by what has been. And you have the agility and the ability to bring that potential to life.”
She added, “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 A.I. 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.”
While Harris received many cheers from the crowd, and it was evident who among the graduates had earned their peers’ support, the class "goat" received raucous cheers.
Braheam Shaeed Murphy, this year’s goat — the graduate with the lowest grade point average — took the stage and was handed a bag that contained about $1000 — a dollar from each of the fellow graduates for the student with the lowest grade point average.
Cheers erupted from the crowd when Harris gave the cadet a Vice Presidential coin as sheshook Murphy’s hand while smiling empathetically. Harris remained onstage until each of the 941 graduates received their degrees, shaking each of their hands as they passed by.
Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth joined the VIPs on the dais during the ceremony.
The Advocate served as the White House press pool representative and accompanied the Vice President on Air Force Two from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York and back. The official ceremony began in the 10 o’clock hour and concluded before 1 p.m. on a beautiful sunny day with blue skies, low humidity, and a breeze with temperatures in the low 70s. Round-trip flights and motorcade routes were uneventful.
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, accompanied the Vice President on Air Force Two. Reed, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, graduated from West Point in 1971.
The ceremony concluded with Second Lieutenant Lauren Drysdale, First Captain of the U.S. Military Academy’s Corps of Cadets for the 2022-2023 academic year — the highest position in the cadet chain of command — dismissing the class.
As is tradition, all the cadets tossed their white caps into the air, embraced, and families rushed to hug their graduates as the Vice President and entourage departed.
After a short and, at times, bumpy flight, Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, who accompanied the vice present to the graduation, stepped off the plane at Joint Base Andrews and boarded Marine Two to fly to their home at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.