On Wednesday, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduated 240 new officers along with seven international students with President Joe Biden delivering the keynote address.
"Cadets, you knew when you chose the Academy you were choosing a more difficult path than some of your high school classmates. You were signing up for the honor of service, and the additional responsibilities that go with it," Biden said. "But I hope today you take the time to reflect on how much all of the hard work and extra — extra effort you engaged in was worth. And I hope that you take immense pride — immense pride in all that time at the Academy and all the Academy has given to you."
Biden told the cadets that they are "joining a chain of service that links each of you to our history. It’s a connection to the very earliest days of our nation as part of this country’s oldest, continuous seagoing service. But no class gets to choose the world into which it graduates, and demands and the challenges you’re going to face in your career are going to look very different than those who walked these halls before you."
Biden discussed several topics including how important the Coast Guard is to national security, maritime navigation, enforcing maritime law and performing search and seizure operations.
"I’m sure you all saw the pictures of the enormous load of illicit weapons confiscated in the Arabian Sea all laid out across the rear deck of the USS Monterey. The Coast Guard was critical to that seizure and to keeping those weapons out of conflict in the region. Based alongside the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, you had to face down harassment of Iranian fast-attack boats in recent weeks. And in recent weeks, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maui had to fire 30 warning shots to deter such irresponsible and unsafe maneuvers in the region.
"The world is changing. We need you even more.
"And in the Arctic, the Coast Guard is the prow of American presence in the region, rapidly growing in strategic importance as ice recedes and new sea lanes open. We, the United States, are an Arctic nation, and the United States must demonstrate our leadership and engagement, our diplomacy, and our operational skill.
"We must continue to model responsible maritime behavior and uphold clear rules of international agreements that will protect and steward this pristine environment and secure it for future generations — and, by the way, as you know by now, to protect our homeland security as well."
The Class of 2021 consists of 34% women and 34% from underrepresented minority groups.
The class includes 22 African Americans who walked the stage, which marks the largest number of African American graduates in Coast Guard Academy history. This year also marked the second highest number of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in a single graduating class.
Next month, the new officers will begin to serve as leaders in a variety of operational roles throughout the Coast Guard, mostly in cutters.
Seven graduating international cadets from the countries of the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Georgia and will serve in their respective countries of origin.
“The Class of 2021 has led the corps during a very challenging time,” said Academy Superintendent Rear Adm. Bill Kelly. “I am confident they are fully prepared to graduate and serve our nation as officers in the U.S. Coast Guard.”
Founded in 1876, the Coast Guard Academy in New Longon, Conn., is one of the five U.S. service academies and is ranked among the nation’s most prestigious and selective institutions of higher learning.