Biden delivers graduation speech at Morehouse amid concerns from faculty and students – Top Stories (Trending Perfect)

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President Joe Biden will deliver the commencement address at Morehouse College on Sunday morning, his largest direct interaction with college students since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas and a key opportunity for him to connect with a group of voters that data suggests is declining: young, black men.

A White House source familiar with the planning for Biden's commencement address He told NBC News The president intends to use his remarks to “focus on students” and “address their concerns.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre echoed that sentiment on Friday, telling reporters that Biden sees his speech as “an opportunity to rise up and give an important message to our future leaders.”

“He has been working on these statements for the past two days, I can assure you, with his senior advisors. He is taking this incredibly seriously,” Jean-Pierre said. “That moment will come. I believe you will hear directly from the president about his clear vision for the future of this country, as well as the community they represent,” he added.

Biden reviewed the tone of his remarks during a speech Thursday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision.

“Morehouse was founded after our country’s Civil War to help prepare formerly enslaved Black Americans to enter the ministry, gain an education and lead them out of slavery and into freedom,” Biden said before announcing $16 billion in new investments in historically black colleges and universities. . “Morehouse's founders understood something fundamental. That education is about freedom. Because to be free is to have something that no one can ever take away from you.”

But Biden's speech at Morehouse will come against the backdrop of ongoing protests Universities He has been widely praised across the country for his handling of the war in Gaza, with many students and faculty voicing their opposition to the White House's continued financial and military support for Israel. Some at Morehouse hope Biden will address these concerns directly during his commencement remarks.

“I hope we don't get stereotypical language,” Morehouse University professor Stefan Dahn said at Friday's protest. “I hope we get something we've never heard before. I hope his moral conscience trumps any politics.”

Morehouse University 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 host Biden as a commencement speaker and award him an honorary doctorate degree Almost directly It sparked protests among faculty and students, some of which continued into the days leading up to the graduation ceremony.

“This is a great distraction on a day of celebration for the Class of 2024 post-COVID-19, but it is also an opportunity for students to make their voices heard during a time of increasing war and genocide in the Middle East,” Calvin, a Morehouse graduate student from Bell, said in response to Biden’s visit.

“We as students, faculty and alumni stand on the right side of history, not with Biden,” said Anwar Karim, another Morehouse student. “We do not support all the clear and strong support given to the campaign of genocide by Israelis over the past 200-plus days.”

Most recently, the faculty at Morehouse Divided over the decision To award Biden an honorary doctorate at the ceremony. A letter circulated among faculty protesting the decision received more than two dozen signatures in support, and the vote to grant the degree was passed by 50 to 38, with about a dozen abstentions.

Divisions on campus led to At least three meetings Between Morehouse President David Thomas, students and faculty. At those meetings, Thomas acknowledged the Morehouse community's right to protest Biden, but encouraged, if not mandated, that those protests not be destructive.

before the start, He told CNN And that although he will not ask the police to intervene if protests occur during Biden's remarks, he will stop the beginning immediately.

“I have also made the decision that we will also not ask the police to remove individuals from the graduation ceremony wearing ties. If faced with a choice, I will stop the ceremonies immediately if we want to get to that position,” Thomas said.

Even Morehouse's most vocal student protesters acknowledged that any protest during the graduation ceremony would likely not be disruptive, in part because of the volatility the police response would likely provoke.

“I think whatever happens on Sunday from the people and people who want to see some change will be peaceful,” Karim said. “I don’t see it breaking out like it has on some other campuses, because at the black undergraduate colleges here we also recognize the reality of how interactions with police often go.”

White House And deployed its allies To Morehouse, formally and informally, to allay concerns and reduce tensions over Biden's visit.

Steve Benjamin, who heads the White House Office of Public Engagement, Get together with a small group of Morehouse students and faculty this month after a push from school leadership for “direct engagement” from the White House.

During the meeting, some students expressed concerns about Biden overshadowing their graduation, while others implored Benjamin to ensure that Biden's speech would not double as a campaign speech — frustrated at the idea of ​​a commencement address being a way for Biden to boost support among Black people. Voters.

This sentiment was shared by other Morehouse students who criticized Biden's visit.

“I don't think it's a coincidence that he didn't accept the invitation until Trump was already there [Atlanta’s] “The West End, trying to make gains and failing to make gains with our students here,” Morehouse University student Malik Paul said at a campus protest before Biden’s visit. “This comes at a time when voters of color are fleeing Biden in a record number,” he added. a step.”

Still, Biden's visit to Morehouse will come amid concerted efforts by his administration and campaign this week to hone his efforts. Message to black voters.

On Thursday, Biden met with plaintiffs and their family members from the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. The next day, he met with leaders of the Divine Nine, a group of historically black sororities and fraternities, along with Vice President Kamala Harris, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority herself. During his trip to Georgia, Biden on Saturday attended an event focused on engaging Black voters. After his commencement speech, Biden will conclude the weekend by delivering the keynote address at the NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner in Detroit, where he plans to tout his administration's accomplishments for Black Americans.

The data also indicates that black voters – in particular Young black voters – They are nervous about Biden, and some at Morehouse recognize the “opportunity” for Biden to make his case to members of that voting bloc during his speech.

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

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