WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris is set to deliver this year’s commencement address to the U.S. Naval Academy in late May, according to a White House official, joining the ranks of presidents and vice presidents who’ve addressed the prestigious school in years past.
While the official did not discuss details of the May 28 speech, previous leaders have used military academy speeches as opportunities to reflect on foreign policy wins and address the difficulties of war and battle.
Harris could use the address to highlight the administration’s deadline to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, or highlight her own foreign policy portfolio by addressing root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America. During her first 100 days in office, Harris’s administration tasks also included an effort to establish the U.S. as a multilateral partner on the world’s stage, and it’s possible that her speech will strike at similar themes.
Presidents and vice presidents of both parties have used the Naval Academy speech to highlight their foreign policy agendas and accomplishments. Then-President Donald Trump spoke there in 2018, using the platform to argue that America was becoming “great again” — the military included.
“We are witnessing the great reawakening of the American spirit and of American might,” said Trump. “We have rediscovered our identity, regained our stride, and we are proud again.”
And back in 2013, then-President Barack Obama lauded the Navy SEALs’ killing of Osama bin Laden, military deescalation in Afghanistan and the conclusion of the war in Iraq.
Harris would also be following in the footsteps of Joe Biden, who, when serving as vice president, spoke at the same ceremony in 2015. Biden spoke to graduates about the promise of peace in the South China Sea after tensions continued to ratchet up between China and the U.S., and Russia’s aggression toward neighboring nations.
“There are new fault lines,” Biden said. “These new fault lines will continue to divide the great powers, and they reside in the straits and the sea lanes that you will come to know well.”
Biden’s 2015 speech mirrors warnings he set as president in his Wednesday address to Congress, where he advocated for progressive policies to stay competitive with China, a nation he believes is “closing in fast” on U.S. interests.
If Harris echoes recent White House messaging, she may also highlight competition with China, as well as the White House’s response to a recent cyberattack by Russia.
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