NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — President Joe Biden is in New London Wednesday for the Coast Guard Academy’s 140th Commencement exercises; he is this year’s keynote speaker. The motto of the Class of 2021 is “We are the future.”

240 cadets walked across the stage to become the Coast Guard’s newest ensigns. Eighteen of them are from Connecticut, one-third are women, and 22 are African-American – the most ever in a graduating class at the academy.

This is the first class of – now ensigns – who have gone through the academy during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

News 8 caught up with a few of the cadets ahead of the ceremonies Wednesday. They reflected on their years of hard work at the academy, including during the pandemic.

Outside the U.S. Coast Guard Academy ahead of the speech, protesters gathered denouncing the violence in Palestine.

In his address Wednesday, Pres. Biden spoke a lot about the global economy, keeping the United States safe from drugs on international waters, and also protecting shores because of climate change.

Heavy security around the US Coast Guard Academy as President Joe Biden is expected later Wednesday, May 19, to address the class of 2021. News 8 photo: Kent Pierce

He told the graduates, “You had each other’s backs. When times got hard you were there for one another. That’s something you’ll all learn quickly at the academy. You can’t crew the tall ship Eagle without working together. It’s not possible. The pandemic didn’t change that, but it made it more important. We know you wish more of your loved ones could be here to celebrate your big day, especially because so many of you come from families of proud traditions of service.”

This is President Biden’s second time addressing graduates at the Academy. Back in 2013, he did so when he was vice president. 

New London Mayor Michael Passero will be meeting with the president following the ceremonies along with other dignitaries and some graduates following the ceremonies. The mayor has a coin of the City of New London that he will give to the president.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said ahead of the president’s visit to the state, “I’m thrilled that President Biden will be in New London today to address the Coast Guard Academy’s Corps of Cadets and their families—his first commencement address at a service academy as our commander in chief. This is a great honor for Connecticut and for the graduates of the Class of 2021, who carry on a rich tradition as they begin their commissioned service to the nation.”

Biden will start making the trip back to Washington D.C. just after 2 p.m.