The Coast Guard began as revenue cutters, a tax collection service. No more.
Vice President Joe Biden told 227 cadets who became ensigns Wednesday, "You're graduating into a world that is rapidly changing, changing utterly. This is not your father's Coast Guard."
Biden described changes that mean the Coast Guard patrol must straits and passages like never before.
"More than any other time in history, every nation's economic power and viability is tied to the global economy. And as ever, both dependent on the safe passage of goods on the seas, because 90 percent of all goods are traded by sea," Biden said.
The threat of terrorist attack has created another role for the Coast Guard.
"You will conduct port security training in countries as diverse as Saudi Arabia and Liberia and Indonesia to insure that U.S. port facilities around the world meet the security standards that containers entering the United States do not contain destructive elements," Biden said.
He said climate change will require that the Coast Guard's responsibilities extend to the Arctic, to protect newly ice free passages that were frozen solid when this class of cadets was born.
But the newly commissioned ensigns do not waver before their new responsibilities.
Ensign Ellen Kintz, from Westerly, said they're ready.
"It's more exciting than scary. The world is changing, but it has been changing for every generation before us and I'm sure we'll be able to meet it just as every generation has before us," Kintz said.
She's headed to the West Coast for her first assignment, but says she's ready for whatever the job requires.