President Joe Biden delivered a somber address to graduates of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Friday morning, telling them the next 10 years will be the decisive decade of the 21st century.
Speaking before a nearly full Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium under overcast skies mercifully absent of rain, Biden reminisced about the 2018 funeral of Navy alumnus John McCain and spoke of challenges ahead for the graduates and for the country.
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“Today, you stand ready to assume the title you’ve been working for so long to assume,” Biden said. “You’re members of the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, and that’s no exaggeration. You have earned it, congratulations.”
The president addressed graduates seated in rows of white folding chairs on the stadium grounds facing the stage. Family, friends, and other spectators also graced the 34,000-seat venue.
Biden mentioned U.S. military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan and congratulated Navy for its wins over Army and a national title in women's rugby.
After joking about campus pranks and his title of commander in chief, the president turned to the future for the young graduates.
"To state the obvious, no generation of graduates gets to pick what world they graduate into," he said. "It has already been formed for you. But you must change it."
The next decade will shape what the world looks like and the values that will guide it, Biden added, turning to the war in Ukraine and escalating tensions with China.
"The world, more than ever, requires strong, principled, engaged American leadership," he said. "America leads not only by the example of its power but by the power of its example. ... Why do most nations agree to support us? It's the example we set."
As an illustration of this concept, Biden mentioned Sweden and Finland looking to join NATO and nations from Germany to Fiji stepping up to oppose Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin. The fault lines are no longer based on geography but on values, he said, with the United States poised to lead due to its "unmatched network of global alliances and the strength of our partnerships" in the struggle of autocracy versus democracy.
Biden mentioned speaking at the funeral of McCain, the longtime Arizona senator and 2008 GOP presidential candidate, who chose the Naval Academy as his final resting place.
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"John McCain's funeral is one of the first experiences you had at the academy back in 2018," Biden said. "Your class motto, 'not all of me shall die,' I can't help but think must be some reflection of that moment in your lives. It's a reminder of the responsibilities you've taken and the legacy you will leave behind."
You can watch Biden's full remarks here: