Biden says “you really are a dull class” to cadets after they didn’t applaud him during his commencement speech

Amanda Blanco

Hartford Courant

U.S. President Joe Biden will spoke Wednesday morning at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s commencement in New London, marking his first commencement address as president to a service academy.

The ceremony, which was closed to the public, took place outdoors on Cadet Memorial Field around 11 a.m. 

The academy noted the number of guests attending the event was greatly reduced due to COVID-19 restrictions, and mitigation strategies were in place.

“We are honored to host the Commander-in-Chief as we celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2021, the future leaders of the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Academy Superintendent Rear Adm. Bill Kelly in a statement. “It will be a memorable event for our community, as well as a great opportunity to showcase the Academy and the city of New London on a national stage.”

The academy’s commencement regularly brings top national leaders to Connecticut, as presidents and vice presidents traditionally rotate the speeches at the service academies for the Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy in Annapolis, Md.; Air Force in Colorado Springs, and Army at West Point, N.Y.

During his speech on Wednesday he appeared to lose his temper while attempting to get the cadets to laugh with jokes that fell flat.

He referenced the description of the Coast Guard as ‘that hard nucleus around which the Navy forms in time of war’, which received no response from the cadets.

“You’re a really dull class,’ Biden said. ‘I mean, come on, man, is the sun getting to you?”

“I would think you’d have an opportunity when I say that about the Navy to clap,” he said. Then he got a laugh and the round of applause he was looking for.  

Biden spoke to the academy graduates in New London eight years ago as vice president, and President Barack Obama addressed them in 2011 and 2015. In 2017, President Donald Trump spoke at the graduation, followed by Vice President Mike Pence in 2018. Last year the academy held a virtual ceremony, where a number of officials shared remarks as well as actors Gary Sinise and Kevin Costner.

Amanda Blanco can be reached at

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