Biden rebukes Putin in Naval Academy commencement address
President Biden on Friday urged this year’s graduating class of midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy to be stewards of strong American leadership abroad as the world faces major challenges including Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“You are graduating at an inflection point, not only in American history but in world history,” Biden said in the commencement address at the Naval Academy graduation in Annapolis, Md. “The challenges we face, the choices we make are more consequential than ever. Things are changing so rapidly that the next 10 years will be the decisive decade of this century.”
He accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “literally trying to wipe out the culture and identity of the Ukrainian people” by attacking schools, hospitals and other sites in the war that began more than three months ago.
“A direct assault on the fundamental tenets of rules-based international order. That’s what you’re graduating into,” Biden said.
The president called for “strong, principled, engaged American leadership” on the world stage and underscored the importance of alliances such as NATO, which he argued has been strengthened by the war in Ukraine.
“He NATO-ized all of Europe,” Biden said of Putin.
Biden delivered the commencement address during a time of intense domestic and international problems. In recent days, the president has been largely focused on the tragic mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that killed 19 children and two teachers, though he did not speak about the shooting during his speech.
He largely used the address to prepare the roughly 1,200 graduating midshipmen for the challenges ahead, repeating his belief that the world is in the midst of a “global struggle between autocracies and democracies.”
The graduates, he said, will be “representatives and defenders of our democracy” on the world stage.
Biden also reflected on the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a former Navy officer buried on the academy’s grounds, saying he hoped McCain’s legacy would help guide the midshipmen in their service. He called the former GOP presidential nominee a “man of great principle” and an American hero.
“I cannot promise you the way will be straight or the sailing will be easy, but I can promise you that you all have the tools needed to navigate any waters you encounter,” Biden said as he closed the speech. “You are ready.”
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