ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) – Vice President Kamala Harris focused on the challenges of the pandemic, climate change and cybersecurity threats during her keynote address to U.S. Naval Academy graduates on Friday, the first by a woman at the 175-year-old institution.
Harris, the country’s first female vice president and first black woman and person of South Asian descent to hold the post, said the pandemic “has sped our world into a new era.”
“It has always had an impact on our world,” she said. “It has always influenced our perspective, and if we weren’t clear before, we now know: our world is interconnected. Our world is interdependent and our world is fragile. “
A pandemic can spread around the world in a matter of months, a gang of hackers can disrupt a country’s fuel supply, and a country’s carbon emissions can threaten the sustainability of the Earth, the vice president said.
“This, aspirants, is the time we are in, and it is unlike any other time before,” Harris said. “So the challenge now, the challenge that awaits us now is how to mount a modern defense against these modern threats.”
Harris described the cyberattack earlier this month that shut down the nation’s largest fuel pipeline as “a wake-up call” into what new officers in the Navy and Marine Corps will face.
“In fact, there have been many warning shots, so we have to defend our nation against these threats, and at the same time we have to make progress in the things that you have learned – things like quantum computing and science. artificial intelligence and robotics and others. this will put our nation at a strategic advantage, ”said Harris.
In his speech to over 1,000 graduates, including mechanical, electrical and ocean engineering graduates, Harris described climate change as “a very real threat to our national security.”
“I’m looking at you and I know you are one of the experts who will navigate and mitigate the threat,” Harris said.
Most of the 1,084 graduates have been appointed officers in the Navy and Marine Corps, including 784 Navy ensigns and 274 Marines as 2nd lieutenants. About 28% of graduates are women.
Harris said that “the American people depend on you”.
“We saw this during COVID-19 when Americans watched how members of our military helped vaccinate our nation, because you know that biological threats like pandemics and infectious diseases are yet another threat in this time. Harris said.
The commissioning ceremony was again held in person at the Navy-Marine Corps stadium in Annapolis, a year after the academy hosted its first-ever virtual graduation and commissioning ceremony due to the pandemic coronavirus.
Harris marked the milestone by becoming the first woman to deliver the keynote address at the academy’s commissioning ceremony the same year the academy had its first black female brigade commander, who represents approximately 4,400 midshipmen.
Midshipman Sydney Barber, who was named a second lieutenant in the Marines at the ceremony, said it was an exciting and moving day to graduate with Harris as a speaker. She said she was due to meet with the vice president after the ceremony.
“I plan to thank her for leading the way,” Barber, of Lake Forest, Ill., Said in an interview before the ceremony. “She definitely paved the way for me, inspired me throughout the trip.”