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VP Harris to give Naval Academy commencement speech, report says

Midshipmen toss their covers concluding the first swearing-in event for the United States Naval Academy Class of 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dana D. Legg/Released)
May 04, 2021

Vice President Kamala Harris will give the commencement speech at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis on May 28, a White House official told The Capital Gazette on Friday.

Typically, the job of delivering the keynote commencement speech to U.S. service academies rotates between the president, vice president and the secretary of defense. Vice President Harris, as the first woman to fill any of these roles, will likely be the first woman to give the keynote commencement speech to Naval Academy midshipmen graduating and commissioning with the service. The Capital Gazette reported Naval Academy officials could not immediately confirm that Harris is the first woman keynote commencement speaker.

In 2020, then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper gave the commencement speech at the Naval Academy. Vice President Mike Pence delivered the commencement speech in 2019 and President Donald Trump delivered the commencement speech in 2018.

Harris’ planned speech comes 41 years after Annapolis accepted its first female midshipman. This year, the Naval Academy is also graduating its first black female brigade commander, Sydney Barber.

The Capital Gazette reported Midshipmen expressed mixed feelings about Harris’ commencement speech through social media apps, including the anonymous app Jodel. The Capital Gazette also reported a Naval Academy dorm was evacuated after a suspicious package was discovered. The Capital Gazette reported the package was found and cleared around the same time Harris’ commencement speech was announced, though it is unclear that there was any connection between the two events.

The Naval Academy will hold an in-person commissioning ceremony this year, but attendance will be limited, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Midshipmen will have a limited number of tickets to the commencement ceremony and commencement week events. Most events will allow for four guests per midshipmen, according to a letter to parents from Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck, obtained by The Capital Gazette. Commencement week events include a Blue Angels rehearsal and flight demonstration, the 8th & I/Battle Color Detachment and the Color Parade.

The commencement ceremony itself will allow up to six guests per midshipman.