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During West Point commencement speech, Biden applauds U.S. military role abroad

President Biden speaks to the Class of 2024 during commencement exercises at West Point on Saturday in West Point, N.Y.
Spencer Platt
Getty Images
President Biden speaks to the Class of 2024 during commencement exercises at West Point on Saturday in West Point, N.Y.

In his first commencement speech to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as as commander-in-chief, President Biden on Saturday spoke directly about the ongoing conflicts in Europe and the Middle East.

"There's never been a time in history we've asked our military to do so many different things in so many different places around the world all at the same time," Biden said in West Point, N.Y.

In his address to the Army's newest officers, the president reaffirmed his commitment to fight against tyrants and threats to peace, freedom and openness. He vowed to support Ukraine and called for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that includes the return of all hostages. Biden also condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran for escalating conflicts in their regions.

He ended his speech by urging the graduating cadets to hold true to the oaths made at West Point.

"On your very first day at West Point, you raised your right hands and took an oath," he said. "Not to a political party, not to a president, but to the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

Biden's remarks come amid growing scrutiny over U.S. foreign policy, especially as it relates to Israel's war in Gaza. At a graduation ceremony at Morehouse College last week, some students turned their backs to Biden during his commencement speech in protest.

Biden says U.S. is "standing strong" with Ukraine

In his speech, Biden repeated his support for Ukraine, adding that Russia's military was no match for the full force of NATO.

The president vowed to continue U.S. efforts to train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use advanced weapons systems, as well as teach Ukrainian medics on tactical combat and casualty care. But in the same vein, Biden underscored that he did not plan to put U.S. troops on the front lines.

"There are no American soldiers at war in Ukraine and I'm determined to keep it that way," he said. "But we are standing strong with Ukraine and we will stand with them."

Biden cites U.S. role in the Middle East

Biden also spoke highly about the U.S. involvement in the Middle East, applauding food drop operations to Gaza and diplomacy efforts with Arab nations in the region. He did not touch on Israel's war in Gaza, except to say he supported an "immediate cease-fire that brings hostages home."

Instead, Biden focused on America's swift response to Iran, describing the U.S. involvement in helping to intercept missiles and drones during Iran's attack against Israel last month. He also briefly spoke about the unmanned drone attack in Jordan launched by Iran-backed militants, which killed three American reservists and injured several other U.S. service members.

"When anyone targets American troops, we will deliver justice to them. That happened earlier this year when three heroic members of the U.S. Army Reserve were killed in an unmanned drone attack in northeast Jordan," Biden said.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.