WASHINGTON. On Thursday, President Biden made a compelling case for global alliances, telling Air Force Academy graduates that rebuilding partnerships with like-minded nations was key to asserting American power abroad against adversaries such as Russia and China.
“Our partnerships enhance our strength and make us more effective,” Mr. Biden told the academy class of 2023 during a sunny morning ceremony at the University of Colorado Springs. “And do not think that our opponents do not understand this. They work damn hard to try and divide us.”
Mister. Biden’s graduation speech marked the third military academy graduation he had spoken at since becoming president; he performed before the Coast Guard in 2021 and at the Naval Academy in 2022. He twice addressed West Point alumni as vice president.
During his speech, Mr. Biden told the graduates, who will now become second lieutenants in either the US Air Force or the US Space Force, that they bear the burden of helping to preserve the nation’s way of life.
He said the mission they serve is “above any person or president” and is one of the reasons people around the world respect and admire America.
“This is our Constitution,” he said. “This is our country. And these are our enduring American values.”
He praised the alumni for persevering through four difficult years, including due to the pandemic, which forced them to stay at home for part of their first days at the academy. Despite this obstacle, he declared them ready to lead the armed forces of the United States.
“You are the epitome of American military prowess,” he said. “You are ready for anything, for anything. And as I look today, I give you Biden’s word, I’ve never been more optimistic, never been so optimistic about the future of this country, in no small part because of you.”
But most of all, the president was inspired when he spoke about what he called “one of the greatest assets that you will use throughout your career.” This is our unrivaled network of alliances and partners.”
Mister. Biden did not mention former President Donald Trump. But he appeared to be referring to his predecessor, reiterating his assertion that relations with foreign capitals around the world needed to be repaired when he took office in 2021.
The President said that this partnership has been critical in supporting Ukraine in its war with Russia, which has been going on for more than a year.
“Freedom, sovereignty, democracy, simple dignity,” Biden said. “Working with a coalition of over 50 countries, we have provided historic security assistance that has enabled Ukraine to defend itself.”
Mister. Biden entered office with years of foreign policy experience, having served for many years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and eight years as vice president. He has long stressed the need for effective alliances as a means of securing global peace and stability.
In his speech Thursday, he said the United States’ military strength has been strengthened by efforts to work together to meet challenges to freedom and democracy.
Specifically, he said that cooperation with allies helped the United States counter Chinese economic and military aggression; North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons; and other challenges to stability around the world.
“The United States does not seek conflict or confrontation with China,” he said. “China and the United States should be able to work together to solve some of the global challenges like climate change, but we are ready for some tough competition. We will stand up – defend our interests, our friends, our values.”
Mister. Biden also had light-hearted moments.
He noted that the Air Force Academy is 7,258 feet above sea level and “much, much higher than West Point or Annapolis.” He then joked that he made the comments to make sure his Air Force One pilots (academy graduates) were “ready to take me back to Washington”.
He also followed the tradition of the former commanders-in-chief and renounced any minor infractions in the school’s alumni records, which is part of the academy’s graduation ceremony tradition.
Mister. Biden noted that he “got in a little bit of trouble a couple of times” during his time at the University of Delaware.
“I wish,” he said thoughtfully, “that my graduation speaker had that kind of power.”