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Joe Biden Upstaged at Morehouse

Students at Morehouse never let a good protest go to waste.

President Joe Biden upped his campaign game this past week, focusing on black voters. Not only did he address the NAACP about how un-racist he is, but he bravely stepped onto the Morehouse College campus amidst a slew of unhappy pro-Palestinian students to deliver the 2024 commencement address. Thanks to a proficient speech writer – and likely fewer directives on the teleprompter – the president made his case for how great the country is doing under his leadership and did not once question the blackness of any members of his audience. That’s one small step forward.

Morehouse College is a male-only, historically Black college, and it likely served as a testing ground for campaign events to come. The theme was appropriate, and the opening line was excellently scripted. Biden stared into the camera and said: “Education makes you free, and Morehouse education makes you fearless.”

Rest assured, he did not read the part that advises “pause for applause.”

Campus Is Scary

This is the first time Mr. Biden has been on a college campus since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, 2023. Although pop-up protesters against Jews and Israel have followed the president and Vice President Kamala Harris at most campaign stops, he soldiered on with a campaign commencement that featured a tally of all the administration has done for black Americans, including a record $16 billion in new aid for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

GettyImages-2153178052 morehouse

(Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Students protesting before graduation, however, weren’t impressed. One student, Malik Poole, talked to the local news, citing a simple political play with suspicious timing: “And this is coming at a time where voters of color are fleeing from Biden at record pace.”

No, the president’s acclaimed accomplishments didn’t sway the pro-Palestine students. After his introduction, graduates stayed seated and did not applaud. Faculty and graduates alike wore Palestine colors, draped themselves in the country’s flag, and wore keffiyeh scarves. During the remarks, several students stood with their backs toward him, signaling a stance against the administration. Unable to look past, Biden took his message to the protesters after reiterating a call for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza region:

“We’ve been working on a deal as we speak. Working around the clock to lead an international effort to get more aid into Gaza – rebuild Gaza. I’m also working around the clock for more than just one ceasefire. I’m working to bring the region together. Working to build a lasting, durable peace.”

Message and motivation aside, Mr. Biden was upstaged at almost every turn. One faculty member, Samuel Livingston, held up the flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo throughout the entire speech. And valedictorian Deangelo Jeremiah Fletcher brought the house down during his address.

“It is important to recognize that both sides have suffered heavy casualties in the wake of October 7,” Fletcher said. “From the comfort of our homes, we watch an unprecedented number of civilians mourn the loss of men, women, and children while calling for a release of all hostages. For the first time in our lives, we’ve heard the global community sing one harmonious song that transcends language and culture. It is my stance as a Morehouse man – nay, as a human being – to call for an immediate and a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.” That, rather than anything Biden said, was the applause line.

Did Biden Earn It?

The invitation to Biden to deliver the speech to a class of 415 black men was controversial from the start. Half of the college leadership was against it, and an honorary doctorate presented to the president was barely approved after a 50-38 vote, with a dozen faculty members abstaining.

“We as students, faculty, and alums who are standing on the right side of history do not stand with Biden,” said another Morehouse student, sophomore Anwar Karim. “We do not align ourselves with all of the clear and avid support that he’s had for a genocidal campaign on the part of the Israelis for the last over 200-plus days.”

Biden attempted to bring his black audience back to basics, focusing on the recent 70th anniversary of the landmark US Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, which declared the separation of children in public schools based on race unconstitutional. Older Biden followers may find this speech ironic, considering his past segregationist rhetoric and voting history, but he tried. Perhaps irony, or karma, is catching up with the president. His numbers with young black men are in the toilet, and the water is swirling.

Read More From Sarah Cowgill

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