Harris: Army’s Newest Officers Face ‘Unsettled World’

Harris: Army’s Newest Officers Face ‘Unsettled World’

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the West Point commencement.
Photo by: U.S. Army/John Pellino

In a history-making address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, Vice President Kamala Harris congratulated the Army’s newest officers while warning that they face an “increasingly unsettled world.”

“The world has drastically changed,” Harris, the first woman to give the commencement address at West Point, said May 27 to the Class of 2023. “A once-in-a-century global pandemic took millions of lives and disrupted life for billions more. America ended our longest war. And Russia launched the first major ground war in Europe since World War II.”

Longstanding principles are at risk, Harris told the nearly 950 graduating cadets.

In addition to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, China is “rapidly modernizing its military and threatening both the freedom of the seas and rules of international commerce,” Harris said. Autocrats have become bolder, the threat of terrorism persists, and an accelerating climate crisis continues to disrupt lives, she said.

“In the face of all these challenges, America plays a singular role of leadership,” Harris said, adding that “a strong America remains indispensable to the world.”

A critical part of America’s strength is its military. “Our military is a force that underwrites global stability and our national security,” Harris said. “And it is this pillar of our strength where you, cadets, have dedicated yourself to lead.”

Soldiers around the world defend America’s ideals, Harris said. “As vice president, I have seen it firsthand,” from Poland to South Korea, she said. “And soon, as officers in the United States Army, you will join the ranks of those brave warriors and make your own mark on the world,” she said.

Harris’ visit was her first to West Point, according to the Associated Press. Commencement addresses at the country’s military academies usually are delivered by the president, vice president or a high-ranking military official, which until now meant the speakers have always been men, the AP reported.

Harris, who in her remarks noted the 75th anniversary of the integration of women in the military as well as the desegregation of the military, was joined at the commencement by Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, the first woman to serve as the Army’s top civilian leader.

The Class of 2023 is ready for the challenges that await, Harris said in her remarks. “Today, our nation turns to each of you for the strength that you have built here at West Point. The physical strength, the mental strength, the emotional strength, and the strength of character,” she said. “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.”