Harris tells graduates America’s ‘long-established’ principles are on ‘shaky ground’

Vice President Harris said Saturday that young people are stepping into an “unsettled” world amid destabilizing forces such as the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine, adding that long-held principles in the U.S. are on “shaky ground.”

During commencement remarks at Tennessee State University, a historically Black institution, Harris said, “it cannot be denied also that your class has traveled a stony road — a pandemic that took away so much of the college experience that you once imagined.”

“And the world that you graduate into is unsettled. It is a world where long-established principles now rest on shaky ground.”

She said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “threatens international rules and norms” that have provided peace in the region since the end of WWII.

“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. 

Her comments come after Politico published a draft majority opinion this week written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito which would effectively end federal protections for abortions.

In the opinion, Alito wrote that the landmark 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade, is “egregiously wrong.” The drafted opinion would hand down the decision on abortion to the states.

The Supreme Court confirmed that the draft was “authentic” following the leak, but noted that the final decision has not yet been made.

Democrats erupted in outrage after the Politico report.

Harris decried the drafted opinion, saying the “rights of all Americans are at risk.”

“If the right to privacy is weakened, every person could face a future in which the government can potentially interfere in the personal decisions you make about your life. This is the time to fight for women and for our country with everything we have,” Harris said.

The issue of abortion is something that those close to the vice president say she is passionate about.

“She feels very passionately about it,” a source told The Hill this week.

In a speech to abortion rights group EMILY’s List, Harris personally added the line “How dare they?” when speaking about Republican efforts to restrict the medical procedure.

However, Harris told the graduates Saturday there is hope in the next generation to address the challenges of the nation. 

“And, graduates, I look at this unsettled world and, yes, I then see the challenges, but I’m here to tell you, I also see the opportunities. The opportunities for your leadership. The future of our country and our world will be shaped by you,” she said.

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