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Biden to West Point graduates: 'You must keep us free at this time like none before'

President Joe Biden said the graduates face challenges that range from supporting Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion to facilitating humanitarian assistance into Gaza.
President Joe Biden walks to speak to graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy
Posted at 3:49 PM, May 25, 2024

President Joe Biden on Saturday told graduates of the U.S. Military Academy that their class is being called upon to tackle threats across the globe and preserve the country's ideals at home “like none before.”

Biden said the phrase, the class motto, was apt for the sorts of challenges they will take as newly minted Army second lieutenants, from supporting Ukraine's defense against Russia's invasion to facilitating humanitarian assistance into Gaza and defending Israel from attacks by Iran.

President Joe Biden, left, stands with valedictorian DeAngelo Jeremiah Fletcher at the Morehouse College commencement.

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“There’s never been a time in history when we’ve asked our military to do so many different things in some many different places around the world, all at the same time,” Biden said.

Speaking at sun-swept West Point, Biden reaffirmed that he will not allow American service members on the battlefield in Ukraine, but said their work to equip and train Ukrainian forces has “stepped up and stopped” Russian President Vladimir Putin's “brazen vision” for Europe. Biden praised U.S. forces for helping Israel repel a massive drone and ballistic missile attack last month from Iran and working to de-escalate the conflict.

Speaking before the graduating cadets took their commissioning oaths, Biden reminded them that they were swearing fidelity not to a person or political party, but to the Constitution. As other speakers alluded to partisan rancor and political division across the nation, Biden said, “Hold fast to your values that you learned here at West Point."

“Ideas need defenders to make them real," Biden said. "That’s what you are all about. You must keep us free at this time like none before.”

Biden highlighted that rates of sexual assault and harassment in the military declined for the first time last year in a decade, calling it “long past time,” but said even more work was necessary.

The president stood for more than an hour, returning a salute and shaking the hands of each graduate. Biden, as is customary, also absolved cadets of minor offenses committed during their time at the academy, adding with a laugh, “the superintendent can clarify what minor means."