Graduates throw their hats into the air to conclude the graduation and commissioning ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., on May 26, 2023. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
May 26 (UPI) -- Speaking to U.S. Naval Academy graduates Friday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III said their hard work will help bring "a more free and secure world."
He delivered remarks to graduates during their 2023 ceremony in Annapolis, Md., where 1,018 students graduated this year.
"Despite challenges that nobody imagined, you chose to keep coming back and to keep pushing and to keep going," Austin said in praising the graduates.
And the new graduates will learn, he said, "that the lifeblood of the rules-based international order is actually seawater."
Austin told the graduating class that America's competitors "want to replace the hard-won, postwar system of rules and rights with a lawless world of autocracy and aggression."
"But the American flag atop a U.S. Navy ship has long been the symbol of hope for a more free and secure world," he said.
Austin praised the U.S. Navy's support for Ukraine and said sailors "are operating shoulder to shoulder" with NATO.
"The Navy has helped to expand Ukraine's maritime capabilities as Ukraine fights against Russia's cruel and reckless war of choice," Austin said.
On Saturday, Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver remarks at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point graduation ceremony. The event will mark the first time in West Point's 221-year history that a woman has delivered commencement remarks.
In saying West Point was "honored" to have Harris speak, U.S. Military Academy superintendent Gen. Steven Gilland said, "As an accomplished leader who has achieved significant milestones throughout her career, we look forward to her inspiring remarks to our cadets."