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Kamala Harris Makes History At Naval Academy Commencement Address

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Vice President Kamala Harris became the first woman to deliver a commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy. Her remarks yesterday laid a lot of responsibility at the feet of the graduates, saying they will be among those defending this country from new threats, including cyberattacks. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCHING BAND MUSIC)

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: To a stadium of vaccinated Midshipmen in their dress whites, Vice President Harris delivered a speech that was part inspiration and uplift and part a warning siren about a rapidly changing world at a significant turning point.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: We are now entering the next era, a new age, a new epoch with its own tests, with its own challenges and with its own opportunities.

KEITH: Just look at the last year, she said, which showed how interconnected and fragile it all is.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRIS: A deadly pandemic can spread throughout the globe in just a matter of months. A gang of hackers can disrupt the fuel supply of a whole seaboard. One country's carbon emissions can threaten the sustainability of the whole Earth.

KEITH: This new era, Harris said, will require a modern defense for modern threats, including adversaries who...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRIS: Have their sights set on our military technology, our intellectual property, our elections, our critical infrastructure. The ransomware attack by criminal hackers earlier this month. Well, that was a warning shot. In fact, there have been many warning shots.

KEITH: Harris concluded on a hopeful note that those graduates about to toss their hats in the air and continue their service to the country were trained and prepared to help.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRIS: And so, Midshipmen, when you stand to take the oath, I want you to know that as we embark on this new era, President Joe Biden and I, our entire nation have great faith in you, and we are proud of you.

KEITH: Later in the ceremony, Harris was presented with a gift from the class, a jacket. As she put it on over her trademark dark pantsuit, the crowd roared with approval.

(CHEERING)

KEITH: Tamara Keith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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