Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

White House sends official to Morehouse to address concerns ahead of Biden’s speech

By 37ci3 May13,2024



WASHINGTON — A senior White House official met with a small group of students and faculty at Morehouse College on Friday to protest President Joe Biden’s commencement speech there this weekend, according to a White House official and the Morehouse administration. official.

A White House official said that in a meeting with White House Chief of Public Affairs Steve Benjamin, some students expressed concern that Biden was overshadowing their graduation. The official added that some students were particularly concerned about the controversy surrounding Biden’s policy toward Israel and his central focus on the war in the Gaza Strip at Sunday’s ceremony.

A White House official said they also told Benjamin they didn’t want to hear a campaign speech. Benjamin, for his part, tried to reassure the students that Biden’s commencement speech would focus on celebrating their achievements and their hopes for the future.

The previously undisclosed details of the meeting underscore the difficult college commencement season for Biden and other top administration officials as protests against Israel’s war in Gaza form on campuses across the country. Biden is scheduled to be delivered two starting addresses — one on Sunday at Morehouse College and another on May 25 at the US Military Academy at West Point.

The president’s visit to Morehouse comes as his re-election campaign seeks to win over young and black voters, particularly in battleground states like Georgia, as polling shows his support from those constituencies has softened since 2020.

Nine students and faculty members attended the meeting, which Morehouse officials said was scheduled for 90 minutes but lasted more than two hours. The official said the group represents a range of views on the college’s decision to deliver Biden’s commencement speech in 2024 — from those looking forward to Biden’s address to those who have concerns or oppose the decision. The official called it “a fair representation of all voices and opinions.”

“Everyone was given the freedom to speak as they felt,” a Morehouse official said.

The New York Times reported first that Friday meeting took place.

After Morehouse College announced last month that Biden would deliver the commencement address, some students and faculty members have raised concerns and concerns about Biden’s delivery of the address, although the school has not seen the large protests that have occurred on other college campuses.

A Morehouse official said Friday’s meeting was scheduled ahead of the speaker’s announcement in anticipation of a reaction from some students and faculty members.

Both the White House and Morehouse officials described Friday’s meeting as productive.

A White House official said Benjamin spoke to the group about the work the Biden administration has done to benefit college students and black communities across the country.

The official said Benjamin brought the students’ ideas back to the White House, though it was unclear whether the meeting changed any of the participants’ minds. Morehouse declined to name any of the participants.

Aaron Gilchrist reported from Washington and Nnamdi Egwuonwu reported from Atlanta.



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