President Biden told graduates at the U.S. Naval Academy on Friday that they will serve a key role in defending democracy from autocracies such as Russia and China in the next decade.
Speaking at the annual commencement and commissioning ceremony in Annapolis, Maryland, Mr. Biden said the global COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine illustrate how rapidly threats can emerge.
“No officer knows the range of challenges they will face,” the president said to an audience of about 1,100 graduates and 20,000 family members at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial stadium. “Things are changing so rapidly that the next 10 years will be the decisive decade of this century.”
As the graduates become officers in the Navy and Marine Corps, Mr. Biden said, the world is facing a climate crisis, persistent supply-chain problems and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “brutal war in Ukraine.”
“That’s the world you’re graduating into,” the president said. “We’re going to look to you to ensure the security of the American people. We’re living through a global struggle between democracies and autocracies. You’ll be representatives and defenders of our democracy. Our nation is placing in you great trust and great faith.”
The president spoke last year to the U.S. Coast Guard’s graduating class. He also will deliver the commencement address Saturday at the University of Delaware, his alma mater.
Mr. Biden cited the example of the late Sen. John McCain, a graduate of the Naval Academy whom the president called “a good friend.” He is buried on the campus.
“What lives on will be the service you give to others,” Mr. Biden told the graduates. “In this moment, we must steer this nation through this decisive decade. I hope you will keep the memory and example of Academy graduates like my friend John close in your hearts. 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.”