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Biden blasts Putin, praises McCain in Naval Academy graduation address

Biden blasts Putin, praises McCain in Naval Academy graduation address

President Joe Biden used his address to the graduating midshipmen at the Naval Academy Friday to deliver another rebuke of Russian President Vladimir Putin for the invasion of Ukraine.

“Not only is he trying to take over Ukraine, he’s literally trying to wipe out the culture and identity of the Ukrainian people, attacking schools, nurseries, hospitals, museums, with no other purpose than to eliminate a culture,” Biden said. “A direct assault on the fundamental tenets of rule-based international order. That’s what you’re graduating into.”

Biden said the class was entering active service at a pivotal time.

“To state the obvious, no generation of graduates gets to pick what world they’re going to … graduate into, it’s already been formed for you, but you must change it. No officer knows the range of challenges they’ll face when they commission,” the president said. “The class of 2022, you are graduating at an inflection point not only in American history, but in world history.”

The president repeated his oft-stated view that the next decade will shape the course of the world for the entire century, and he once again highlighted the power of the United States not just militarily, but diplomatically. He noted the extent of the global support for Ukraine, from the increases in the military budget in Germany to contributions to international efforts from as far away as from Australia and Fiji.

“You will learn to crew the most advanced ships in the world, train the most elite combat units, conduct undetected submarine missions, fly the most advanced fighter planes,” Biden said. “But the most powerful tool you will wield is our unmatched network of global alliances and the strength of our partnerships.”

He spoke to the challenges that this class has faced, when they were once told not to return to Annapolis after spring break because of the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the efforts that followed to rebuild and return to a new normal after a year of tight restrictions.

The speech came with the traditional order from the commander-in-chief forgiving minor infractions, and it carried some echoes from Biden’s remarks one year ago at the Coast Guard Academy (by tradition, the president rotates service academy graduation addresses). Biden is scheduled to continue on the college graduation speaking circuit Saturday with remarks at the University of Delaware.

The president noted that this year’s graduating class began its first year at the academy in 2018 with the funeral services for the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for whom Biden had delivered a eulogy. The references to McCain seemed fitting, both because his body is buried on the grounds of the academy and because he was such a persistent critic of Putin.

“I hope that you’ll keep the memory and the example of Academy graduates like my friend John McCain close in your hearts as you embark on your commission,” the president said.

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