Kamala Harris’ Latest Speech Is Turning Heads

On May 28, Vice President Kamala Harris set yet another historic first: becoming the first woman to give the keynote address for the U.S. Naval Academy’s commencement ceremony. And as NBC noted in its coverage of the event, Harris’ speech also made her the first Black woman and first South Asian American woman to impart words of wisdom to 2021’s crop of graduates from the 175-year-old institution. The ceremony itself also, in a way, achieved a first all its own as the first live commencement following a 2020 marked by the still-ongoing (but now dwindling) coronavirus pandemic. It was an occasion Harris herself alluded to in her remarks for the graduating class, lauding the students present. “You rolled up your sleeves, got vaccinated, and you made it to this day,” Harris said, lauding those in attendance. 

Despite the moving overall moment, however, others seemed to take umbrage with components of Harris’ speech, some which more conservative media outlets found controversial. So what, exactly, did Harris’ speech to the rising Naval Academy students entail? And what is the origin of the purported controversy? Keep on scrolling to find out more.

Kamala Harris made a joke about solar panels during her speech

While mainstream media outlets like NBC reported Kamala Harris’ recent speech to the U.S. Naval Academy’s graduating class by focusing on the historic firsts, other publications zeroed in on a particular segment of the same speech — one that referenced future green and energy efficient technologies. As the New York Post recounted in its coverage, the supposedly controversial remarks came in the form of a joke delivered by Harris. “Just ask any Marine today: Would she rather carry 20 pounds of batteries or a rolled-up solar panel?” the vice president said during her address, alluding to the development of an energy generator of that ilk in the possible future. Later, Harris spoke more pointedly about the threat of climate change, expressing confidence that members of the 2021 class would be part of a next generation to help combat the crisis.

Though Harris included a number of issues directly related to the future careers of the rising students present at the ceremony (among them the threat of COVID-19 and cybersecurity), more conservative media outlets like Fox News singled out Harris’ solar panel joke and the response it received by the graduating cadets, which was, to wit, met with some applause after a pause. And while the outlet pointed out that solar panels today receive supplemental charges from batteries when sunlight is not present, the vice president’s joke alluded to future technological developments, not current ones.

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