President Biden is delivering the commencement address to the U.S. Naval Academy’s class of 2022 Friday in Annapolis, where just over 1,200 midshipmen will be graduating.
“Well, midshipmen — you made it! You made it!” the president began. Mr. Biden asked graduating service members to stand up and clap for their parents and the other people who got them to this moment.
He has delivered the Naval Academy graduation speech on two other occasions, in 2010 and 2015, when he was vice president, but this is the first time he’ll be giving the address as president. There are over 20,000 attendees at the ceremony, including graduates, families, Navy leaders and members of Congress.
Mr. Biden’s speech is the first of two addresses to graduating classes this weekend — he’ll also deliver the commencement address at his alma mater, the University of Delaware, on Saturday morning. On Sunday, the president will travel to Uvalde, Texas, to meet with the families of victims and with community and religious leaders.
The president’s address comes as the nation mourns the loss of those 19 children and two teachers who lost their lives after a gunman opened fire on Robb Elementary School. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has said the Senate will vote on gun reform legislation, but Congress is gone for a more than week-long Memorial Day recess. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration is always looking to see what the president can do unilaterally, but emphasized that it’s Congress that needs to act.
“The president has long urged Congress to take action to fight gun violence, including by expanding background checks, and he supports Leader Schumer’s plan to bring legislation forward,” Jean-Pierre said during Friday’s press briefing. “The Congress will clearly handle the mechanics of all of this.”
Recent presidents have all addressed the Naval Academy’s graduation ceremony. In 2018, former President Trump insisted the United States “has regained the respect that we used to have long ago abroad.” In 2013, former President Obama urged graduates to use their “inner compass.” In 2005, former President George W. Bush told graduates the U.S. was “winning the war on terror.”