Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Biden to deliver Morehouse graduation speech amid concerns from faculty and students

By 37ci3 May19,2024



ATLANTA – President Joe Biden will deliver a speech at Morehouse College on Sunday morning, his most direct engagement with college students since the Israel-Hamas war began and, according to reports, his main opportunity to connect with a group of voters. Don’t go soft on her: young, Black men.

A White House source familiar with the planning of Biden’s speech This was reported by NBC News said the president plans to use his remarks to “focus on students” and “address their concerns.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday that Biden saw the speech as “an opportunity to stand up and deliver an important message to our future leaders.”

“He has been working on these disclosures for the last few days, I can assure you, along with his senior advisers. He takes it incredibly seriously,” Jean-Pierre said. “This moment will meet. I think you will hear directly from the president how he sees the future of this country and the society they represent.”

Biden previewed the tone of his speech Thursday to mark the 70th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision.

“Morehouse was founded after our nation’s Civil War to help prepare formerly enslaved black Americans for ministry, education and freedom from slavery,” Biden said before announcing $16 billion in new investments for historically black colleges and universities. . “The founders of Morehouse understood something fundamental. Education is about freedom. Because being free means having something that no one can take away from you.”

But Biden’s speech at Morehouse will come amid protests college campuses Many students and teachers nationwide have opposed the White House’s continued financial and military support for Israel over its handling of the war in Gaza. Some at Morehouse hope Biden addresses those concerns head-on during his commencement address.

“I hope that we will not buy empty language. Hopefully we’ll get something we haven’t heard before. I hope his ethical, moral conscience is above any politics,” Morehouse professor Stephane Dunn said at Friday’s protest.

Morehouse has also held pro-Palestinian protests on campus, although the HBCU has not seen the same scale or escalation of demonstrations as some larger universities.

The school’s decision to accept Biden as its commencement speaker and award him an honorary doctorate almost immediately sparked protests among faculty and students, some of which continued days before the commencement ceremony.

“This is a huge distraction on a day to celebrate the Class of 2024 post-Covid-19, but it’s also an opportunity for students to make their voices heard in a time of escalating war and genocide in the Middle East,” Morehouse CEO Calvin Bell said of Biden’s visit. he said in response.

“We as students, faculty and alumni who stand on the right side of history are not with Biden,” said sophomore Anwar Karim, another Morehouse student. “We do not align ourselves with all the clear and courageous support he has shown for the campaign of genocide by the Israelis over the last 200-plus days.”

Most recently, it was the faculty of Morehouse divided by decision conferring an honorary doctorate on Biden at the ceremony. A letter circulating among staff members protesting the decision garnered more than two dozen signatures of support, and the vote to award the degree passed 50-38, with about 12 faculty members abstaining.

Divisions on campus led at least three meetings Among Morehouse President David Thomas and students and faculty. In those meetings, Thomas acknowledged the right of the Morehouse community to protest Biden, but encouraged those protests to be non-disruptive, if not mandatory.

Before starting, he told CNN If protests do occur during Biden’s remarks, he will stop the kickoff immediately, though he won’t call for police intervention.

“I also decided that we will not ask the police to fire people with zippers. If we are faced with a choice, if we reach that position, I will stop the ceremonies on the spot,” said Thomas.

Even the most vocal student protesters at Morehouse acknowledged that any protest during commencement would not be disruptive, in part because of the volatility a police response could provoke.

“I think that whatever happens on Sunday by the people and the people who want to see some change will be peaceful,” Karim said. “I don’t see it erupting like it has on some other campuses because we remember here at HBCUs how interactions with the police often go.”

White House placed his allies He reached out to Morehouse, both formally and informally, to ease concerns and tensions surrounding Biden’s visit.

Steve Benjamin, Chief of the White House Office of Public Affairs, met with a small group Morehouse students and faculty this month after school officials pushed for “direct communication” from the White House.

During the meeting, some students expressed concern that Biden would overshadow their graduation, while others asked Benjamin to ensure that Biden’s speech did not double as a campaign stump speech — angry that the commencement address was a tool for Biden to bolster support among blacks. voters.

That sentiment was shared by other Morehouse students who criticized Biden’s visit.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he accepted the invitation only after Trump was already there. [Atlanta’s] West End is trying to make a profit with our students here and it’s not,” Morehouse student Malik Poole said at a campus protest before Biden’s visit. “And this comes at a time when voters of color are running away from Biden at record rates.”

However, Biden’s visit to Morehouse will come amid a concerted effort by his administration and his campaign this week. A message to black voters.

On Thursday, Biden met with plaintiffs and their families in the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education. The next day, she met with Vice President Kamala Harris, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, as well as leaders of the Divine Nine, a group of historically Black sororities and fraternities. During his visit to Georgia, Biden participated in an event aimed at attracting black voters on Saturday. After the commencement address, Biden will close the weekend by giving a keynote address at the NAACP Freedom Foundation dinner in Detroit, where he plans to celebrate his administration’s achievements for Black Americans.

According to reports, Black voters – especially young black voters – Angry at Biden, some at Morehouse see Biden’s speech as an “opportunity” to make his case to members of that voting bloc.

“If you want these students to vote for you in the fall, you have to give them something that shows you’re listening,” Dunn said. “You’re trying to do something we haven’t heard of. This is an opportunity.”



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