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‘Don’t wait to be bold’: U.S.’s top military officer gives keynote speech at Academy’s 2021 graduation ceremony

Cadets present the class gift during the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2021 Graduation Ceremony at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 26, 2021.

Cadets present the class gift during the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2021 Graduation Ceremony at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 26, 2021. One-thousand-nineteen cadets crossed the stage to become the Air Force/Space Force’s newest second lieutenants. (U.S. Air Force photo/Trevor Cokley)

General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivers the graduation address to the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2021 Graduation Ceremony at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 26, 2021.

General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivers the graduation address to the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2021 Graduation Ceremony at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 26, 2021. One-thousand-nineteen cadets crossed the stage to become the Air Force/Space Force’s newest second lieutenants. (U.S. Air Force photo/Joshua Armstrong)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said cadets graduating from the Air Force Academy May 26 will face challenges unlike any the U.S. military has seen before in what he called “an era of great power competition.”

The 1,019 new Air and Space Force second lieutenants possess the character and leadership abilities to tackle any challenges this power competition might place in front of them, Milley said.

“Every one of you has embraced what it means to be ‘joint,’ to be on one united team,” he said. “You have learned as a group that you’re stronger together.”

Milley said the Air Force’s core values were “forged in war” and told the new officers to stay true to the Academy’s values and their oath of office if they wish to be successful leaders.

“Your oath is your north star, your center line,” he said. “It’s your oath that will keep you grounded.”

Milley is the 20th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the country’s highest-ranking military officer, and the principal military advisor to the president, secretary of defense and National Security Council. He graduated from Princeton University in 1980, where he received his commission from Army ROTC.

Milley likened today’s international drive for global military dominance to the Cold War and other geopolitical swings throughout history. The chairman said this international power competition can only be met by the leadership skills and technological innovation the graduates learned at the Academy in artificial intelligence, robotics, hypersonic weapons and other technologies.

“You are well equipped to meet those changes. Don’t wait to be bold,” he told the cadets seated across the stadium field. “Be innovative, be vigilant.”