Joe Biden collapses at Air Force Academy graduation

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – President Biden tripped and fell on stage after congratulating graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy on Thursday. He was immediately assisted by the authorities and continued to participate in the program.

“He’s fine. There was a sandbag on stage while he was shaking hands,” White House communications director Ben LaBolt tweeted.

After giving the commencement address and shaking hands with 920 cadets for the last time, Biden began to move left to return to his seat, tripping over a black sandbag and falling to his knees. The President was assisted by Air Force officers and Secret Service agents. Biden then pointed to a black sandbag on stage.

The leader remained on the stage till the end of the ceremony in a few minutes.

President Biden collapses after shaking hands with graduates at the United States Air Force Academy graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs on June 1. He stood up quickly. (Video: The Washington Post)

A few hours earlier, Biden delivered the commencement address at the ceremony. The president, 80, stood at the podium for more than two hours and saluted recent graduates as their names were read, and the temperature in El Paso County, Colo., was in the 60s.

At the airport for his return flight to Washington, Biden climbed the stairs without incident. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said he was “absolutely fine” and that the president “boarded with a big smile.”

The president traditionally delivers the commencement address at one of the nation’s military academies. Vice President Harris recently spoke at West Point Military Academy, where she became the first woman to deliver the keynote address.

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Biden used part of his speech Thursday to emphasize how far the nation’s armed forces have come in terms of racial, ethnic and gender diversity.

“Your class is one of the most diverse classes in the history of this academy — or any academy — to graduate,” Biden said, his voice rising. “That’s why we’re strong. That’s who we are. That’s why we never give up.

He added, “At every step we are taking to harness the full diversity of our nation. … Our armed forces have grown stronger, more efficient and more admirable.

Returning to the global stage, Biden also expressed hope that Sweden’s bid to join NATO would soon be approved. Both Finland and Sweden sought to join the alliance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but NATO member Turkey has so far blocked Sweden’s request, demanding that Stockholm take a tougher approach to Kurdish groups.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently won re-election after a tough campaign, and U.S. officials hope he will remove obstacles to Sweden’s access as he faces less domestic political pressure.

“NATO is more dynamic and united than it has been in decades,” Biden told the Air Force graduates. “It is now even stronger with our new ally Finland and soon Sweden joining the alliance. It will happen.”

Biden also took the opportunity to congratulate Air Force Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown Jr., whom he recently nominated for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If confirmed, Brown, a highly experienced officer, would be only the second African-American to hold the Pentagon’s top uniformed post.

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