Vice President Joe Biden called upon the newest graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy to shape a new history for the country as they said goodbye to academia and welcomed their new challenges as second lieutenants in an ever-changing U.S. military and world.
Biden delivered the academy’s commencement address at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“Today marks the end of one chapter and [begins] what for many of you will be a long and proud career of service to the United States of America,” he said. “You take your place as leaders in the premier military not only in the world, but in the history of the world.”
Biden thanked the 1,046 graduates for surviving the rigors of higher learning while simultaneously enduring the physical and mental stresses of becoming Air Force officers.
“While your friends across the country were heading to campus bars, you were [conducting military training],” he said. “We want to express our gratitude for the service you’ve yet to perform, the risks you’ve offered to take and the many sacrifices that will be asked of you in the coming years.”
The class of 2009 is graduating into a moment in history where the state of the world is constantly changing, Biden said, setting a course for a future that past generations didn’t have to act upon. The vice president cited the global financial crisis and food, water and energy scarcities. He talked about the proliferation of nuclear weapons by “unstable” countries and called the world a planet in peril “set in a direction that must be altered.” Today’s challenges are daunting, he acknowledged, but they present immense opportunities.
“This is a moment that requires us to act or face the consequences of our inaction,” Biden said to the class. “Other generations have had the luxury of not acting, knowing that the status quo would not in any fundamental way be altered. You don’t have that choice.
“This is your moment to bend history towards a service of a better day,” he continued. “It’s a moment that will be defined by you and your civilian counterparts %u2013 by a generation that I’m convinced has the intellect, the character and the judgment to ensure that America will lead the 21st century as it has the 20th century.”
Biden said he envies today’s generation for its opportunity to rewrite history. Each graduating class and every cadet has had unique challenges, Biden said, and every class enters history which, up to that point, was written for them. But the opportunities to rewrite history and make the world a better place are far greater today than ever before, he added.
“It’s not going to be easy,” the vice president said. “The history that you can write is monumental, and I’m absolutely confident that you can do it.”
Biden stressed that it’s not just a time for the newest generation of college graduates. It’s America’s time too, he said, as the country strives to invest in education opportunities for lesser fortunate children and make health care more affordable and available for its citizens.
On a day when President Barack Obama held up Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., as an example for the nation to follow in the pursuit of solar energy, Biden said America has a responsibility to make the planet greener by developing ways to improve the environment. Americans also should support improving the quality of life for Third World countries, which Biden said will greatly reduce the recruiting pool for terrorists and extremists.
“All this while you, the future military leaders of America, are guaranteeing our security and promoting peace and stability the world over,” Biden told the Air Force Academy graduates. “We have learned that peace without military strength is an illusion, but military strength without wisdom is insufficient.”
Biden urged the graduates not to listen to those who doubt the relevance of today’s Air Force and those who may not believe their generation is up for the many challenges ahead of them. Superiority in the air, in space and in cyberspace can’t happen without the Air Force and the technological intellect of today’s generation of military leaders, he said.
“How can you protect my son and all the sons and daughters of Americans who are on the ground in the theaters of combat without you flying the skies over Afghanistan and Iraqi” he asked. “All other nations combined in the world do not have the capacities that our Air Force alone possesses.”
Without the United States Air Force, he asked, who could be trusted with nuclear stewardship, and who would be there at a moment’s notice to deliver humanitarian aid to countries in needi
“There’s no security in the United States without a strong, robust, vibrant [and] growing United States Air Force,” he said.
The only way the United States can make good on its many promises to nations around the world is because of its Air Force and strategic military capabilities, he said.
“You are relevant,” he told the graduates. “You are the essential element in fulfilling America’s leadership in the world. You have the character, the training and the motivation unlike any other generation before you to fulfill your missions. And while you do, %u2026 you will change the course of history.”