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Biden Addresses Morehouse Graduates on Gaza Crisis, Highlights Threats to Democracy

During a solemn commencement address on Sunday, US President Joe Biden encouraged graduates of Morehouse College not to lose faith in democracy. He acknowledged their frustration over the conflict in Gaza while cautioning about the potential threats to American liberties.

The address, typically a low-key affair, attracted attention amidst nationwide protests on college campuses concerning Biden’s stance on Israel’s military actions following Hamas’s attack on October 7th. Despite this, the historically Black men’s college remained tranquil, with only minor and silent displays of dissent.

Biden expressed empathy for the graduates’ concerns regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza and reaffirmed his efforts to broker a ceasefire in exchange for hostages’ release. He acknowledged the difficulty of leadership, acknowledging the pervasive frustration and anger even within his own family.

Acknowledging the complexity of the conflict, Biden reiterated his call for an immediate ceasefire, drawing applause from the audience.

A generational gap was evident during the dignified commencement ceremony, with older alumni occasionally rising to cheer the president while current graduates sat quietly or offered polite applause.


Some graduates adorned themselves with keffiyehs, the black-and-white headscarves symbolizing solidarity with the Palestinian cause, worn over their gowns. A few students silently protested by turning their backs on Biden. Even Morehouse’s valedictorian, in a powerful moment, called for an immediate and lasting ceasefire, earning applause from Biden.

In this address, a platform ahead of the November 5th election against Republican contender Donald Trump, Biden emphasized his backing for Black Americans and his commitment to combating racism and division, which he sees as threats to the nation’s core.

He posed the question: “Does the democracy you hear about actually work for you?” while urging Americans to confront white supremacy and dismantle systemic racism, asserting that democracy remains the path forward.

Biden is striving to win over disillusioned voters who support his policies but are skeptical of the 81-year-old candidate himself, particularly among younger Black men, as he gears up for a rematch against former President Trump. Trump’s increasingly authoritarian rhetoric and his attempts to cast doubt on the election’s integrity pose significant challenges.

Challenging the graduates to leverage their historic education to lead and advocate for freedom, Biden highlighted Morehouse’s pivotal role in educating newly liberated Black individuals after slavery’s abolition in 1865. Notably, the college boasts esteemed alumni like civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.

While not explicitly naming Trump, Biden referenced the January 6th, 2021, attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, who brandished Confederate flags from the Civil War era. He also condemned attacks on Black election workers, voter suppression efforts, and extremist rhetoric targeting immigrants.

At a later event in Michigan, Biden directly addressed Trump’s actions surrounding the Capitol attack, questioning how Trump would have responded if Black Americans had stormed the Capitol instead.

Recent polling data shows a tight race between Biden and Trump among voters under 40, a demographic that heavily favored Biden in 2020. Additionally, there has been a decline in Black voter certainty to vote, from 74% roughly four years ago to 62% now, though nine in 10 Black voters supported Biden in the previous election.

Biden highlighted his administration’s significant funding allocated to historically Black colleges and universities, portraying them as instruments for advancing economic mobility. In contrast, Trump has claimed to combat what he perceives as an “anti-white sentiment” in the U.S. while attempting to appeal to Black voters by citing his supposed support for the community, likening his impact to that of Abraham Lincoln.

This isn’t the first time Trump has compared himself to Lincoln, as evidenced by his remarks during the 2020 presidential debate.

Campus Perspectives

At Morehouse, nestled in Atlanta, Georgia, a pivotal state in the 2024 political arena, the atmosphere on campus reflects a mix of political engagement and nuanced perspectives. Since Biden’s victory in Georgia in 2020, there’s been a palpable sense of expectation among Black men, who, despite their crucial support for the Democratic party, feel disillusioned with the pace of progress on key issues like economic opportunities and criminal justice reform.

While some draw parallels between their struggles and those of marginalized communities worldwide, including Palestinians and apartheid-era South Africans, protests at historically Black colleges like Morehouse have not reached the fervor seen at other institutions. Biden’s recent speech at the graduation ceremony sparked varied reactions among graduates, with Calvin Bell III acknowledging both appreciation for certain aspects and disappointment with others.

As the political landscape heats up ahead of the November elections, Biden’s stance on issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is scrutinized closely. Despite maintaining support for Israel, Biden’s warnings against excessive military action underscore the complexities of his foreign policy approach.

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