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Vice President Harris delivers keynote address at Coast Guard Academy’s commencement

Vice President Harris attends Coast Guard commencement
Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 8:58 AM EDT|Updated: May. 18, 2022 at 1:54 PM EDT
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NEW LONDON, CT (WFSB) - Vice President Kamala Harris delivered the keynote address during the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s 141st Commencement exercises on Wednesday.

The commencement kicked off at 11 a.m. on Cadet Memorial Field.

Harris spoke around 11:50 a.m.

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy 2022 commencement ceremony took place at 11 a.m. Wednesday in New London.

12 Connecticut families are celebrating with their new ensigns Wednesday night.

They are future leaders of the Coast Guard.

There are 243 newly commissioned officers Wednesday.

Among them are nine international graduates, including Anton Kononuchenko from Ukraine.

Kononuchenko received a standing ovation as he received his diploma and honors from commencement speaker Harris.

“She just remind me about my family here at the academy all these people who become my best support, become my family,” said Kononuchenko.

The vice president complimented the grads and thanked them for their service.

“Remember how you feel at this moment because that will guide you in each of your assignments ahead,” said Harris.

12 new ensigns are from Connecticut, including Olivia Gonzalez of Waterford.

“How much she appreciates the Coast Guard and what we do as a service, seeing that appreciation meant a lot to me,” said Ensign Olivia Gonzalez.

“It’s been a long four years from the day we dropped her off, we are just so happy she’s here today, made it through,” said Kristen Gonzalez, Olivia’s mom.

Ensign Kaitlyn Dow is assigned to serve on a coast guard cutter in Virginia.

She talked about the toughest part of her four years.

“Definitely school, management and academics,” Dow said.

“Oh wow. Actually a proud day the kids put in the efforts we’re just here to support them,” said David and Kathleen Dow, Kaitlyn’s parents.

As tradition would have it the class divested of their cadet life, tossing their hats as three Coast Guard helos did a fly over and families reunited before the ensigns, shoved off for their new assignment.

“I’m the proud father of Destiny Johnson, just what an amazing person young lady now and representing the borders of the United States I’m just proud of her,” said Warren Johnson.

The event was not open to the public, according to the academy.

“We are honored to host the Vice President and look forward to having her present the Coast Guard’s newest leaders with their commissions,” said Rear Adm. Bill Kelly, academy superintendent. “This will also be a memorable moment for our graduates before they head out across the country and around the globe to take their places in the fleet.”

The White House told Channel 3 that would discuss the Biden Administration’s priority of upholding and strengthening the international rules-based order and how the cadets will contribute to the work. She will describe the state of the world that cadets are entering, where long-standing rules and norms are under question, including in Ukraine, but also more broadly around the world.

The world you graduate into is unsettled,” Harris said. “It is a world where long-established principles now rest on shaky ground. Where the rule of law is strained. Where rules and norms are under question. We see this in Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine where fundamental principles are under threat.”

Vice presidents traditionally address the graduating class at one of the federal service academies on a rotating basis, officials said. This was Harris’ first visit to the Coast Guard Academy. She delivered the keynote speech at the Naval Academy graduation ceremony last year.

There were a few places to avoid in New London as a result of the vice president’s visit.

Some of the restrictions included no parking on the following streets as of 5 a.m. on Wednesday:

  • River Ridge Rd.
  • Deshon St.
  • Nameaug Ave.
  • Oneco Ave.
  • Farnsworth St.
  • Winchester Rd.
  • Uncas Ave.

The parking restricts will remain in effect until later in the day at the discretion of New London police. Tickets will be issued and vehicles not in compliance will be towed.

Riverside Park was also closed to the public at 5 a.m.

Gov. Ned Lamont posted a welcome message to Twitter.

“Looking forward to welcoming [Vice President] Kamala Harris to Connecticut [Wednesday] to celebrate the [U.S. Coast Guard Academy] Class of 2022,” Lamont wrote. “With more than 250 cadets, this is the largest graduating class in the academy’s history.”

President Joe Biden was the academy’s commencement speaker last year.

The commencement is scheduled for May 18 at 11 a.m. on Cadet Memorial Field.
Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to deliver the keynote address during the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s 141st Commencement exercises on Wednesday.