Vice President Kamala Harris to speak at Naval Academy commissioning in Annapolis


For the first time, the Naval Academy will say “yes ma’am” when the vice president comes to speak.

Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver the keynote speech during the graduation ceremony on May 28, a White House official told The Capital on Friday. The keynote typically rotates between the vice president, president and the secretary of defense.

Until Harris, none of those positions has been held by a woman. But because Harris is the first woman to hold the office of vice president, her appearance will be historic. Harris is likely the first woman to give the keynote speech, although Naval Academy officials could not immediately confirm the first.

Last year, former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper gave the keynote speech at the virtual commissioning. Both former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence delivered the keynote speech, in 2018 and 2017, respectively.

As vice president, President Joe Biden gave the keynote speech in 2015 and 2010.

The Naval Academy will hold in-person commissioning this year, although at a limited capacity, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each midshipman was given a limited number of tickets for the commissioning ceremony, as well as for the Commissioning Week events.

Most events will allow for four guests per midshipmen, according to a letter to parents from Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck. These events are expected to include the Blue Angels rehearsal and flight demonstration, the 8th & I/Battle Color Detachment and the Color Parade.

Midshipmen can have six guests at graduation. Graduation will start at 9 a.m. with the procession of graduates and faculty, with the ceremony starting at 10 a.m., according to the academy’s commissioning week schedule. The Blue Angels are scheduled for a flyover at 10:04 a.m.

The swearing-in ceremony will follow immediately after the graduation ceremony.

The academy will also hold the Herndon Climb for the class of 2024 ahead of Commissioning Week. The climb will be closed to the public but will be live-streamed.

Harris’ appearance at the Naval Academy will be the second time in two months that she has officially visited Maryland. She spent part of Thursday in Baltimore, including a tour of the mass vaccination site at M&T Bank Stadium.

A woman giving the keynote speech comes 41 years after the first female midshipmen graduated from the Naval Academy. Sydney Barber, who will graduate in May, is the first Black female midshipman to be the brigade commander.

Harris is the first female vice president, as well as the first Black or South Asian woman to hold the position.

Naval Academy midshipmen took to social media, including anonymous app Jodel, to share mix feelings on the announcement, although a now-cleared suspicious package threat in Bancroft Hall distracted from the news about Harris.

Although the White House confirmed that Harris would speak at commencement, the vice president has not publicly said anything. The vice president was in Cincinnati Friday.

Among the midshipmen graduating, a few of them likely have Harris partly to thanks for their time at the academy. As a senator for California, prior to her time as vice president, Harris would have had the opportunity to nominate high school students for the academy. Each midshipman at the Naval Academy must receive a nomination, usually from a Congressional member, although the vice president and president can also nominate.Heather MongilioCONTACT 

Heather Mongilio is the Report For America corps member with the Capital Gazette, where she covers military affairs. Mongilio previously reported at The Frederick News-Post and the Carroll County Times. She earned a master’s degree in science writing from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree from American University.