NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday used his first commencement address as commander in chief to tell Coast Guard Academy graduates they will play a vital role as the United States reasserts itself on the world stage.

Biden, speaking at the Coast Guard’s sun-soaked Connecticut campus, told the 240 graduates that “the world is changing” and told them that they are at “significant inflection point.”

“The best way to meet the wide array of threats we meet today is by investing in America’s enduring advantages,” said Biden, “and ensure we’re operating from a position of strength.”

The president used the speech to position the United States as a defender of global rules, trade and marine law, specifically in the South China Sea and the Arctic. Following the inward-looking presidency of Donald Trump, Biden has pushed for the U.S. to prove that democracy still works at home so it can lead by example across the globe and compete with rising autocracies.

But Biden made no mention of several current global hotspots, including the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, for which hours earlier he called for a cease-fire. Biden, who also spoke at the New London academy as vice president in 2013, did stress that the Coast Guard played in responding to more frequent extreme weather, such as hurricanes, due to climate change.

In good spirts, Biden relished the stage, telling stories about his late son Beau — an Army veteran —and teasing the graduates for not laughing at his jokes, smiling as he declared them “a really dull class.” But he turned serious when he praised them for navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, declaring that “you met the threat head on, you adapted, you showed resilience, you led.”


Lemire reported from New York.

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