The last two years have been tough for just about everyone. President Joe Biden sees a silver lining to that, especially for recent college graduates.
Speaking at the Naval Academy's commencement ceremony in Annapolis on Friday, Biden said that the class of 2022 is particularly well-equipped to change the world due to the graduates' proven ability to navigate uncertainty. "You faced added challenges to maintain a sense of mission and community and purpose when a global pandemic forced ... literally everything to change," Biden said.
That adaptability has prepared graduates to make sound, informed decisions in an "uncertain world," Biden added, noting that the choices that leaders make will soon become "more consequential than ever before."
"You're graduating at an inflection point, not only in American history, but in world history," Biden said. "Things are changing so rapidly that the next 10 years will be the decisive decade of this century because they're going to shape what our world looks like and the values that will guide it — not just in the immediate future, but for generations to come."
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In addition to adaptability, Biden highlighted respect and inclusivity as important leadership traits for young people to lean into, arguing that they're especially valuable right now because the world is realigning. In the past, countries allied with other countries based on geography and conflict, he said — but now, it depends on values, especially ones that prioritize people over power.
"We're living through a global struggle between autocracies and democracies," Biden said. "That's what you're graduating into ... a world that more than ever requires strong, principal, engaged American leadership. Where America leads not only by the example of its power, but the power of its example."
The president acknowledged that the class of 2022 also faces a steeper set of challenges than most graduating classes — including economic turmoil, international conflict and a yet uncalculated pandemic toll. But the leadership skills they've already learned, even unknowingly, could give them a better capacity to ultimately change the world for the better in the coming years.
"No generation of graduates gets to pick what world they're ... going to graduate into," Biden said. "It's already been formed for you, but you must change it."
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