Vice President Kamala Harris told U.S. Naval Academy graduates that the country is entering “a new age” after COVID-19 in her keynote speech delivered Friday in Annapolis, Maryland.
“Well, Midshipmen, we are now entering the next era,” the former California Democratic senator said, according to Fox News.
“A new age, a new epoch, with its own tests, with its own challenges, and with its own opportunities.”
Harris was the first woman to give the keynote speech at the 175-year-old institution, The Associated Press reported.
She noted that the coronavirus pandemic “accelerated our world” into a new era.
“The global pandemic has accelerated what was happening before, and it has accelerated our world into a new era,” Harris said. “It has forever impacted our world. It has forever influenced our perspective.”
“And if we weren’t clear before, we know now: Our world is interconnected. Our world is interdependent, and our world is fragile.”
Harris cited the cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline and its impact on the East Coast gas supply as a “warning shot” for what the graduates could face during their careers.
“In fact, there have been many warning shots, so we must defend our nation against these threats,” she said.
“And at the same time we must make advances in things that you’ve been learning — things like quantum computing and artificial intelligence and robotics and things that will put our nation at a strategic advantage.”
The vice president told the 1,084 graduates that climate change is “a very real threat to our national security.”
“And I look at you and I know you are among the experts who will navigate and mitigate this threat. You are ocean engineers who will help navigate ships through thinning ice,” she said, according to Fox.
“You are mechanical engineers who will help reinforce sinking bases. You are electrical engineers who will soon help convert solar and wind energy into power, convert solar and wind energy into combat power.”
About 28 percent of the graduating class are women, and the graduates included 784 Navy ensigns and 274 Marines as 2nd lieutenants, the AP reported.
Harris told the graduates that “the American people are depending on you.”
“We saw this during COVID-19 when Americans watched how members of our military helped vaccinate our nation, because you know biological threats like pandemics and infectious diseases are yet another threat in this era,” she said.
The graduation was held in person at the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis a year after the ceremony was held virtually for the first time ever due to the coronavirus pandemic.