Biden addresses graduating cadets at West Point Military Academy

WEST POINT, N.Y. — President Joe Biden told West Point cadets Saturday that they owed an oath to the U.S. Constitution, not to their commander in chief, delivering a commencement message that echoed his campaign-year warnings about the looming threats to American democracy.

In his 22-minute speech to the graduating class at the U.S. Military Academy, Biden did not mention former President Donald Trump or repeat his accusation that returning Trump to the Oval Office would allow him to shred the norms that protect democratic institutions.


But Biden left little doubt about the subject of his concern.

“On your very first day at West Point, you raised your right hands and took an oath not to a political party, not to a president, but to the Constitution of the United States of America,” he said.

“Nothing is guaranteed about our democracy in America,” he added. “Every generation has an obligation to defend it, to protect it, to preserve it, to choose it. Now it’s your turn.”

Biden has argued that democracy is at stake in the upcoming presidential election, and that the basic institutions of government — including the military — are at risk if Trump is allowed to return to the Oval Office.

On Saturday, Biden used the moment to suggest a sharp contrast with Trump, who delivered the commencement address at West Point in 2020 and received criticism even from some within the ranks of the academy for what they said was Trump’s desire for personal loyalty from the people around him.

Trump gave his speech at West Point just weeks after Mark Esper, then the secretary of defense, and Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had joined him for a walk through Lafayette Park near the White House amid a harsh crackdown by police and the military of a Black Lives Matter protest after the death of George Floyd.

In an open letter to the West Point graduates at the time, former members of the academy urged them to remember where their obligations lay.

“We pledge service to no monarch; no government; no political party; no tyrant,” the former West Point cadets wrote to their successors. “Your oath is to a set of principles and an ideal expressed in the Constitution and its amendments.”

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