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U.S. Coast Guard graduates new cadets, VP Harris gives keynote address

The Class of 2022 included the largest number of Asian American and Pacific Islanders to graduate in academy history.

NEW LONDON, Conn. — Vice president Kamala Harris told the 252 new officers of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy that they are starting their service at a crucial moment for the world, a period in history when the “rule of law is strained” and “fundamental principles are under threat.” 

The Democratic vice president, in her commencement speech, reflected on the state of the world in which long-standing rules and norms are more frequently coming under attack, according to excerpts of the speech released by her office. 

“And the challenges we face are broader than Russia,” Harris said. “Around the world, we see additional attempts to undermine the rules-based order: Nations that threaten the freedom of the seas; criminal gangs and traffickers who skirt the rule of law, and fuel corruption and violence; those that manipulate and undermine the foundations of international commerce."

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Anton Kononuchenko, a new Coast Guard cadet from Ukraine, said graduating is a "new chapter of my life" that almost didn't happen after watching the war unfold in his home county.

"It was tough. I was ready to leave as soon as possible but the command staff gave me some good advice to stay here and keep representing my country here," he said.

The Class of 2022 consisted of 87 cadets from underrepresented minority groups including the largest number of Asian American and Pacific Islanders to graduate in Academy history.

Among those was Eugene Song, who said he is the first in his family to go to school in America.

"Means a lot to me," he said.

His mother, Phides Oh, said watching her son graduate was a proud moment.

"So proud of him and so proud of my country in South Korea and so grateful living here as a candidate for United States citizen," she said.

This year also marked the second-highest number of cadets to commission into the Coast Guard in addition to 21 Cyber Systems graduates, the first to graduate from the newly instituted major to meet the needs of the service’s cybersecurity strategy of defending cyber space, enabling operations, and protecting infrastructure.

Nine graduating international cadets from the countries of Cambodia, Iceland, Jordan, Mexico, Madagascar, Palau, Panama, Rwanda and Ukraine will serve in their respective countries of origin.

The vice president made the case that as Coast Guard members, the graduates will play an important role in helping the United States uphold the international rules-based order, calling it one of the United States’ “defining missions.” 

“Over time, this order has been tried. This order has been tested. And far too often, this order has been taken for granted,” Harris said. “Frankly, sometimes we forget how rare it is in human history to have a period of relative peace and stability among nations.”

Gov. Ned Lamont was also in attendance at the commencement ceremony.

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Vice presidents traditionally address the graduating class at one of the federal service academies on a rotating basis. This will be her first visit to the Coast Guard academy. She last gave a keynote address at the Naval Academy graduation in 2021.

Last year, President Joe Biden delivered the keynote address at the Coast Guard academy. He is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at this year's Naval Academy graduation.

"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.”

For a list and map of road closures in the area, head here.

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This is not the vice president's first visit to Connecticut. 

In March 2021, Harris visited New Haven to tout the American Rescue Plan for the Biden administration. 

The focus of the visit was to highlight the challenges Connecticut and cities around the country are facing in regard to child poverty and education, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The vice president’s trip then continued to the West Haven Child Development Center, where they met a classroom of three and four-year-old children ahead of prepared remarks by Harris. 

Wednesday's Coast Guard academy commencement is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on Cadet Memorial Field. The event is not open to the public. FOX61 will be streaming the commencement on FOX61.com and the FOX61 Roku and Fire TV apps.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jennifer Glatz is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jglatz@fox61.com.

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