Vice President Kamala Harris will mark another first for women Friday morning when she addresses the graduating class of the United States Naval Academy, becoming the first female commencement speaker in the school’s nearly 175-year history.
In her speech, the vice president is expected to focus on some of the Biden administration’s most urgent challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threats.
“The global pandemic has launched us into a new era. It has forever impacted our world,” she is expected to say, according to prepared remarks shared with The New York Times. “If we weren’t clear before, we know now: Our world is interconnected. Our world is interdependent. Our world is fragile.”
The vice president’s speech at the Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Md., will be her first to focus on the military, and it comes as the Biden administration is accelerating its withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, well ahead of the deadline President Biden set in April: Sept. 11.
Presidents and vice presidents deliver commencement speeches to the different service academies on a rotating basis, and Harris is the first to return to the Naval Academy since President Donald Trump took the stage in 2018 and declared that, after his election, the United States was “respected again.” Last year’s commencement was held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s ceremony will be in person, although attendance is limited to facilitate social distancing.
Harris, the first woman and person of color to be vice president, will not be the only one on Friday to have made history at the Naval Academy. Among the graduates at the commencement ceremony will be Midshipman First Class Sydney Barber, the first Black woman in the academy’s history to serve as brigade commander.