Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at the Tennessee State University commencement ceremony on Saturday, and warned graduates that they’ll soon be entering an “unsettled” world, as the country is forced to defend “fundamental principles.”
The speech, shared by ABC News, touched on a variety of topics—including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. As the VP explains, students will be experiencing a “world where long-established principles now rest on shaky ground.”
“In the United States, we are once again forced to defend fundamental principles that we hoped were long settled – principles like the freedom to vote, the rights of women to make decisions about their own bodies, even what constitutes the truth, especially in an era, when anyone can post anything online and claim it is a fact,” Harris said.
Last week, Politico shared Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s 98-page initial draft majority opinion, which would overturn the 1973 decision protecting abortion rights. Alito called it “egregiously wrong from the start,” and Politico reports that a final decision on Roe will be announced in the coming months.
In terms of Russia, Harris added during her speech that the invasion of Ukraine “threatens international rules and norms that have provided unprecedented peace and security in Europe since World War II.”
“We believed that the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity had for the most part prevailed, that democracy had prevailed,” she said. “But now the certainty of fundamental principles is being called into question, including the principles of equality and fairness.”
Harris shifted gears to close out the speech, asking the soon-to-be alumni to remember that they “are not alone” and come “from people” and “with people.”
“Because I promise you, there will be a time when you will walk into a boardroom or a courtroom or maybe even the Situation Room, and you will walk into the room and find you are the only person in that room who looks like you or has had your life experience,” she said. “At that moment, you must remember you are not in that room alone. Always know that you carry the voices of everyone here and those upon whose shoulders you stand.”