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WEST POINT – The United States Military Academy at West Point graduated
its 214th class Saturday, with 972 senior cadets and over 10,000 of their
friends and family members gathered inside of Michie Stadium for the ceremony.
The graduates forth as second-lieutenants in the Army's various branches,
such as infantry, engineering or military intelligence.
The diverse array of graduates from all over the country, as well as a
dozen foreign cadets, were delivered their commencement address by Vice
President Joe Biden. He quoted George Washington as having said West Point
was the "key to the continent" back during the Revolutionary
War. Biden said it was even more important today.
"While thousands of colleges across America are proudly celebrating
graduations today…only at West Point and the other outstanding service
academies does the entire United States of America swell with pride at
the accomplishment you're celebrating today," he told the graduates.
The vice president called them the "9/11 generation," those
who bravely decided to bring their exceptional intellects to a military
academy knowing full well that they would most likely serve in dangerous
warzones in the Middle East.
"The challenges these wars present to young warriors are perhaps
the most daunting in our nation's history because in addition to fighting
for your country, your predecessors and you will be asked to do so much
You're asked to take on tasks once reserved only for those with years
of seniority and take on responsibilities well beyond the base and the
battlefield," said Biden.
He spoke of recent military successes like withdrawing from Iraq, training
Afghanistan's security forces and the famed raid that finally slew Osama
Bin Laden. But also said it has not come without cost, as 4,422 service
members have died and over 30,000 injured in Iraq and Afghanistan; 87
West Point grads have been killed in action – the most recent being
David Rylander, a combat engineer killed by an IED on May 2.
Biden, who played a key role in international policy even as a US Senator,
spoke of revitalizing the nation's alliances on broad terms, continuing
its relationship with Afghanistan outside of military operations and investing
into the burgeoning economies in India, Russia and especially China.
"Every day the affairs of our nations and livelihoods of our citizens
grow more connected. How we manage this relationship between the world's
two largest economies, although we're still almost three times as large
as theirs, will help shape the 21st century," said Biden.
The vice president and Lt. Gen. David Huntoon, superintendent at West
Point, handed the graduates their diplomas as they stood and filed towards
the stage with expectedly impeccable procedure. Huntoon reminded them
only four years ago they took their first oath of service to the Constitution.
"Since then you have met every challenge to become the leaders of
character that our Army and our nation must have in these perilous times.
On this day you will assume the mantle of commissioned officer leadership.
You will accept the responsibility and privilege of leading soldiers.
You are well prepared," said the superintendent.