By Michelle Eberhart (USMA West Point, Public Affairs)May 26, 2016
WEST POINT, N.Y. -- The U.S. Military Academy at West Point welcomed Vice President Joe Biden as the guest speaker for the Class of 2016 Graduation. This was Biden's second time addressing the Corps and their families during a commencement ceremony.
"I realize for some of you, today comes with mixed emotions," Biden said. "But I'm confident, all you parents and grandparents, that the overriding emotion is one of incredible pride in their unimpeachable character, their bravery, their unwavering determination, and the accomplishments of your daughters and your sons, we are proud of them as well."
Biden said that upon graduation, the Class of 2016 will leave as the most promising second lieutenants in the world.
"The United States Military Academy has forged you into warriors, strategists and with a bond that will never be broken for the rest of your life," Biden said of the Long Gray Line. "You have joined the most elite fraternity and sorority in the United States of America. They have never met you, but they know you before you arrive."
After this sentiment, Biden granted amnesty to all Cadets charged with minor conduct offenses, resulting in cheers from the entire corps.
He also emphasized the importance of utilizing all the skills they've learned as they begin fighting in a complex and interconnected world. "No generation gets to choose the world in which they graduate," Biden said. "But now it's your turn to write history, it's a different world, globalization, digitalization, artificial intelligence."
Biden spoke about the Army's Cyber branch and the increasing digital battles they face during today's state of war. "You'll need to dominate the cyber realm as you do the physical one," Biden said. "You'll need to confront ISIL on the ground, as well as online. They possess the most sophisticated recruiting tool in the history of the world, and as barbaric as their conduct, they've learned."
Biden went on to congratulate the West Point team of Cadets who won this year's Cyber Defense Exercise and in doing so, beat Navy.
"But this isn't just a celebration of competition," Biden said. "They know and every parent should know how critically important their skills are to the future of our national security."
In talking about the future of the Army and the country, Biden said that everyone who volunteers to be a member of the Armed Services should be granted equal opportunities if they are fit to do so.
"I can't tell you what problems you'll be asked to solve, but they won't be able to solve them alone, and the chances of success are always higher when everyone on the team brings something different to the table, to meet these tests of our changed world, we need the best," Biden said. "The best Soldiers, the best hackers, the best engineers, the best doctors. The best of everyone, so if you've got a skill, and the toughness, and the desire, the drive to serve your country, you are welcome in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. The only question that should ever be asked is, 'Can this person do the job?'"
Biden discussed the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in 2010 and lifting combat restrictions for women. He announced that seven female gradates of West Point will commission into the Combat Arms branches.
"We can't afford to leave the talents of any individual on the sidelines, our needs are too great, our challenges are too large," Biden said. "America is strongest when we lead, not only by the power of our example, but by the example of our power."
At the end of his speech, Biden shared a personal anecdote, mentioning that when he came to West Point to speak in 2012, he brought his young grandson, Hunter, with him.
"At the end of the ceremony, you all throw your hats up," Biden said. "(He) ran out and grabbed a hat, we were riding back in Air Force Two afterward and he looked at me and pulled it out and said, 'Pop, I'm going to West Point.'"
With that, Biden said the only thing he could say, "Go Army, Beat Navy!"