Biden urges ‘constant vigilance’ to maintain democracy in West Point speech

WEST POINT, New York — President Joe Biden delivered the commencement address at the United States Military Academy on Saturday, leaning into themes about the importance of protecting democracy.

Speaking on a sunny spring morning in an outdoor stadium filled with cadets and their families and friends, Biden called the graduating class “guardians of American democracy” and stressed that maintaining freedom required “constant vigilance.”

“Nothing is guaranteed about our democracy in America,” Biden warned.

Biden never mentioned former President Donald Trump by name. But his emphasis on duty, democracy and protecting the Constitution had clear political undertones and underscored a central message of his reelection bid.

Biden told the class of 2024 that they would face challenges in their careers, especially at a time when more and more was being asked of service members. But he implored them to stick to the oaths that they took as guiding principles throughout their lives, including their commitment to serve not a political party or a president, but to defend the Constitution and against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

“You must keep us free at this time, like none before,” Biden said.

The president touched on the number of global challenges currently confronting the country — from the war in Ukraine to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. He reiterated his commitment not to put American boots on the ground in Ukraine but emphasized that the U.S. would continue to stand by its ally in its fight against Russia. “We will not walk away,” Biden said.

Biden opened his address on Saturday speaking about the founding of West Point and how the British failed to capture the Hudson River during the Revolutionary War — earning him a loud cheer from the audience. He congratulated Army cadets for their winning streak against Navy — to another enthusiastic round of applause — and joked about how he wanted to go to the Naval Academy as a high schooler but didn’t have a shot at getting in.

Biden arrived at the scenic West Point campus on Saturday in a far different position than Trump when he delivered the 2020 commencement address here. Two days before Trump’s speech, West Point alumni issued a public letter to the class of 2020 reminding them that they “pledge service to no monarch; no government; no political party; no tyrant. Your oath is to a set of principles and an ideal expressed in the Constitution and its amendments.”

The sitting president typically delivers the commencement speech at one of the U.S military academies each graduation season. Since taking office, Biden has spoken at the Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force graduations.

“Ideas need defenders to make them real. That’s what you, class of 2024, are all about,” Biden said.

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