WEST POINT - Vice President Kamala Harris gave West Point's class of 2023 an enthusiastic send-off as they received their diplomas and embarked on their military careers following graduation Saturday.
Harris, this year's commencement speaker, said when the cadets complete their basic officer training and meet the first platoon they will lead, the soldiers under them will look into their eyes for guidance.
"You are ready to lead them," Harris assured the cadets. "You have graduated from the pre-eminent leadership institution in the nation."
Harris observed that the world has changed a lot since the graduates first arrived at West Point 47 months ago.
The world endured the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the United States ended its longest war and Russia launched the first major war in Europe since World War II with its attack on Ukraine, she said.
"You are graduating into an increasingly unsettled world," Harris said.
'Defending our nation's highest ideals'
A strong America, Harris said, "remains indispensable to the world."
"Our military is the strongest in the world," Harris said. "It underwrites global stability. You will play an essential role in defending our nation's highest ideals."
Harris also spoke to the cadets, who were about to take an oath as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army, about the importance of that oath.
"You take an oath not to a person or a political party," Harris said. "You take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and by extension, to support and defend our most sacred ideals."
Harris said she has personally witnessed the Army in action doing just that around the world, from defending the NATO alliance in Europe, to standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
Harris has the distinction of being the first woman, the first Black American and the first South Asian American to be elected vice president.
Who are the West Point graduates?
An estimated 941 cadets received their diplomas and took their oaths as second lieutenants in the Army in Saturday's ceremony at West Point's Michie Stadium. Among them were 216 women, 89 Black Americans, 65 with Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry, 152 Hispanic or Latino individuals, and six Native Americans.
Eleven are combat veterans. Nine are international cadets who will return to their native lands to perform their military service there. Those nations include Columbia, Egypt, Honduras, Jordan, Mongolia, Romania, Rwanda, Thailand and The Gambia.
While the parents and other family members and friends cheered loudly for many of the graduates, the newly-minted second lieutenants saved their loudest cheers for Braheam Shaeed Murphy, this year's class goat - the graduate with the lowest grade point average. Those cheers represent the other graduates' gratitude for sparing them that distinction.
Mike Randall covers breaking news for the Times Herald-Record, Poughkeepsie Journal and The Journal News/lohud. Reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @mikerandall845.
This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Kamala Harris addresses West Point class of 2023. What she said