Kamala Harris becomes first woman to give West Point commencement speech

<span>Photograph: Peter Foley/EPA</span>
Photograph: Peter Foley/EPA

Vice-President Kamala Harris on Saturday became the first woman at West Point’s 221-year history to deliver a commencement speech.

Addressing over 900 graduating cadets at the elite American military academy in West Point, New York, Harris told them that they are graduating “into an increasingly unsettled world where long-standing principles are at risk”, and cited the threats of Russian and Chinese aggression in her speech.

“Cadets, global security and global prosperity depend on the leadership of the United States of America. And a strong America remains indispensable to the world,” said Harris.

“Our democratic ideals of freedom and liberty inspire billions … And our military is the strongest in the world. Our military is a force that underwrites global stability and our national security.

“And it is this pillar of our strength where you, cadets, have dedicated yourself to lead,” she added.

Harris warned that international rules and norms are no longer being upheld, citing specifically Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. She also criticized China’s military presence in the Indo-Pacific, saying that China is rapidly advancing its military and “threatening both the freedom of the seas and rules of international commerce”.

The US vice-president also cited dictatorships across the world, saying that autocrats have become bolder and that the threat of terrorism persists. She also made mentions of the climate crisis, saying that it “continues to disrupt lives and livelihood”.

Harris went on to address the technological training that cadets underwent at the academy, including cyber, robotics, artificial intelligence and systems engineering.

Harris pointed to a future of artificial intelligence and virtual reality for cadets, telling them: “You will enable rapid adoption of new technology into every aspect of war-fighting, which might mean using AI to predict the movements of our adversaries; might mean autonomous vehicles to support and supply our forces; or virtual reality to train our soldiers on new weapon systems.

“As I think about the future of our military, I am particularly optimistic because of you. Because I know you will make sure that as the character of warfare changes, no nation will match the power of America’s military – on traditional battlefields or in future domains,” she added.