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Harris becomes first woman to deliver U.S. Naval Academy commencement speech

The vice president delivered the historic address in person, another change from the virtual format brought on by the coronavirus pandemic last year.

Vice President Kamala Harris delivered the U.S. Naval Academy's commencement address Friday in Annapolis, the first woman to do so in the school's 175-year history.

"Congratulations!" Harris told the class of 2021 and their family members at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium a year after the coronavirus pandemic forced the school to hold its first virtual graduation ceremony. "You rolled up your sleeves, got vaccinated, and you made it to this day," she said.

The ceremony was more in line with pre-pandemic celebrations, including a flight demonstration by the Blue Angels.

Harris, the first female, Black and South Asian American vice president in United States history, made no mention of breaking the gender barrier in her address, focusing her remarks on the "constantly changing" threats the roughly 1,000 graduates would be facing.

“A deadly pandemic can spread throughout the globe in just a matter of months," she said. "A gang of hackers can disrupt the fuel supply of a whole seaboard. One country's carbon emissions can threaten the sustainability of the whole Earth. This, midshipmen, is the era we are in. It is unlike any era that came before. So, the challenge before us now is how to mount a modern defense to these modern threats."

"We must defend our nation against these threats," Harris said. "And at the same time, we must make advances in things you have been learning, like quantum computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, things that will put our nation at a strategic advantage. And you will be the ones to do it because the United States military is the best, the bravest, and the most brilliant."