1 of 2 | U.S. President Joe Biden arrives on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., upon his Thursday afternoon return from Colorado, where he had given the commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy. At the end of that event, he had tripped over a sandbag on the stage before being helped up. Afterward when he returned to D.C., the president jokingly told White House reporters, "I got sandbagged." Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo
June 1 (UPI) -- In a Thursday commencement speech to the U.S. Air Force Academy's 2023 graduating class, President Joe Biden said a rapidly changing world awaits the new officers and will affect U.S. interests from Europe to Asia Pacific.
"Resilience, creativity, endurance, commitment -- these have been essential parts of your unique academy training. And you're going to need those qualities as you continue your careers because the world you are graduating into is not only changing rapidly, the pace of change is accelerating, as well," Biden said in his speech, according to a transcript provided by the White House.
Biden, 80, also joked about graduating from high school "300 years ago" before suffering a minor fall as he left the stage to greet graduates after his remarks. He appeared to be unharmed.
"We are seeing proliferating global challenges, from Russia's aggression and brutality in Europe to our competition with China, and a whole hell of a lot in between -- from growing instability to food insecurity to natural disasters -- all of which are being made worse by the existential threat of climate change," Biden said in his speech to the new grads.
The president also encouraged the former cadets to seek partnerships and friendships such as those the U.S. has forged with countries across the world, particularly in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine.
"Remember what was said? Putin was certain that NATO would crack, that they would not stand together," Biden said. "We put 40 nations together. The United States has rallied the world to stand strong with Ukraine and defend the values that the American people hold so dear: freedom, sovereignty, democracy, simple dignity."
Biden then touted his decision to work with European allies to begin training Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter aircraft, including the F-16.
"The Ukrainian people's iron resolve to live in freedom will never be broken. They are incredible: average women and men fighting, giving their lives for their country and their families," Biden said. "And the American people's support for Ukraine will not waver. We've always stood up for democracies, always."
The president added that NATO, in the wake of the Russian aggression, is "more energized and more united" than it has been in decades and celebrated the alliance's accession of Finland while expressing hope that Sweden's application will soon be accepted.
Regarding U.S. relations with China, Biden said that the United States "does not seek conflict" and that the two nations "should be able to work together" to resolve global challenges."
"But we are prepared for vigorous competition. And we will stand -- stand up for our interests, for our friends, and for our values," Biden said.
The president also plugged his administration's new strategic partnerships in the Indo-Pacific to "enhance deterrence against threats in the region, including from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."
In his speech, Biden also said that advancements in emergent technologies, including artificial intelligence and 3D printing, "could change the character of conflict itself."
Biden said he recently met with eight scientists who are experts in AI and who are "very worried that AI can actually overtake human thinking and planning."
Biden told the graduates of his pride in them and their accomplishments.
"I'm honored to be here as you take on the duties of serving and defending our nation," he said.
"In the years to come, you'll have even more asked of you. You'll take on greater responsibilities, and you'll be challenged even beyond everything you've yet experienced," Biden told the graduates.
"You're going to take with you the confidence that your years have prepared you for whatever is ahead," he said.
After his speech, Biden was seen stumbling and falling and was helped up by Air Force officers.
"He's fine. There was a sandbag on stage while he was shaking hands," White House communications director Ben LaBolt said on Twitter.
Biden walked away unassisted after the tumble, ABC News reported, and continued to greet people.
Afterward, when he returned to D.C., the president jokingly told White House reporters, "I got sandbagged."