Biden to deliver Morehouse commencement address as protests disrupt graduations across the country

President Biden will deliver the commencement address at Morehouse College on Sunday as protests continue to disrupt graduation ceremonies across the country.

Biden’s speech at the historically Black college is an opportunity to shore up his flagging support among Black voters ahead of the 2024 election. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that Biden had been working on his speech with senior advisors for several days.

The speech is “an opportunity to lift up and to give an important message to our future leaders,” Jean-Pierre said.

“He’s been working on these remarks for the past couple days, I can assure you, with his senior advisers. He’s taking this incredibly seriously,” Jean-Pierre added. “It will meet the moment. And I think you will hear directly from the president on how he sees obviously the future of this country, and also the community that they represent.”

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The commencement comes just days after Biden announced $16 billion in new funding for historically Black colleges and universities across the country. He mentioned Morehouse by name in remarks about the funding initiative last week.

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“Morehouse was founded after our nation’s Civil War to help prepare Black Americans who were formerly enslaved to enter the ministry, earn an education and usher them from slavery to freedom,” Biden said. “The founders of Morehouse understood something fundamental. Education is linked to freedom. Because to be free means to have something that no one can ever take away from you.”

Biden’s appearance comes as anti-Israel protests have overtaken campuses across the country. Morehouse itself has also seen its share of unrest. The student body is divided even about Biden’s appearance at graduation. Dissatisfied students are reportedly attempting to organize a silent protest during Biden’s speech that would see students turn their backs on the president, according to NPR.

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“I think it’s kind of insulting that our star alumnus is Dr. King, but Biden has been on a tirade in the Middle East,” one student, DeAngelo Fletcher, told the outlet. “Bringing him here — especially during an election year … to get the young Black vote especially, it’s kind of insulting.”

Hundreds of Morehouse alumni also signed a letter calling on the college to rescind its invitation to Biden earlier this year. Students and faculty at the college have accused Biden of assisting Israeli “genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza during the war that was sparked by the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack.

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