In a wide-ranging speech, the president assessed the challenges and threats the new generation of leaders will face, while praising the cadets’ resilience in what’s been a trying year full of pandemic restrictions.
Those same restrictions forced many would-be spectators to watch online instead of in person this year, thinning out what would have otherwise been a packed set of bleachers.
That didn’t stop the president from ribbing the cadets for their apparent lack of energy, however, wondering aloud early on if the sun had sapped their enthusiasm after a wisecrack about the Navy failed to generate a hearty response.
“You are a really dull class,” Biden chided. “Come on, man. Is the sun getting to you? I would think you would have an opportunity when I say that about the Navy to clap.”
The president hailed the cadets for being “fierce patriots as well as young people of incredible courage and dedication” as he reflected on the challenges they’ll encounter in a rapidly changing world.
That includes climate change causing more frequent and stronger storms, China and Russia undermining international maritime norms for their own benefit, and a melting Arctic that’s rapidly growing in importance and in need of protection.
He struck an optimistic tone while assessing the makeup of the Class of 2021 ― and the strength of diversity in meeting those challenges head-on.
Biden noted that women make up over a third of the class, and another third are underrepresented minorities, with those numbers increasing year over year.
“You’re the most progressive, best educated, least prejudiced, most open generation in American history,” he said. “We need you badly. You’re ready. It’s time to get underway.”
“In your careers you’re going to face challenges you can’t predict,” he added toward the close. “You’ll be asked to lead in ways and navigate new paths, but when the storms gather or the seas of life go rough, remember the Coast Guard’s marching song to sing on land and sea, through surf and storm and howling gale, high shall your purpose be.”
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