President Joe Biden Commencement Speech at Morehouse College: Defending Democracy and Addressing Dissent

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President Joe Biden delivered a compelling commencement speech at Morehouse College, addressing the importance of democracy, the significance of Black history, and his commitment to Black voters. Amidst national and global challenges, Biden’s message resonated with themes of resilience and the essential role of diverse voices in shaping America’s future.

Joe Biden Commencement Speech
Joe Biden Commencement Speech

In a powerful and resonant speech at Morehouse College, President Joe Biden addressed the graduating class of 2024 with a message deeply rooted in the themes of democracy, freedom, and the critical importance of Black history in the American narrative. Against a backdrop of political tension and global conflict, Biden’s address underscored his commitment to serving Black voters and safeguarding democratic values amidst what he termed “extremist forces” threatening the nation’s soul.

A Commitment to Black Voters and Democracy

Biden’s appearance at Morehouse, a historically Black college in Atlanta, was not just a ceremonial gesture but a strategic engagement with a key constituency. With the 2024 general election looming just six months away, his speech sought to reaffirm his administration’s dedication to Black voters, a demographic crucial to his electoral success. Polls have shown wavering support among Black and young voters, making this address particularly significant.

The President’s speech was imbued with religious overtones, echoing themes of struggle and resilience. He drew a stark contrast between his vision for America and the potential future under his likely opponent, former President Donald Trump. “They don’t see you in the future of America, but they’re wrong,” Biden asserted. “To me, we make history, not erase it. We know Black history is American history.”

Addressing National and Global Concerns

Biden’s address also touched on broader issues of national and global importance. Acknowledging the current climate of dissent and debate about America’s role in the world, he emphasized the importance of allowing diverse voices to be heard as a cornerstone of democracy. “That’s my commitment to you,” he declared. “To show you: democracy, democracy, democracy — it’s still the way.”

This commitment to democratic principles comes at a time when student protests and activism have surged across college campuses nationwide, particularly concerning U.S. policies and involvement in conflicts like the one in Gaza. Morehouse College has experienced its share of student demonstrations, though these have remained peaceful and without major disruptions.

A Peaceful Protest and a Message of Unity

Morehouse College President David Thomas had previously stated his preference to halt proceedings rather than forcibly remove protesting students, a scenario that fortunately did not unfold. The commencement ceremony proceeded smoothly, with heightened security and increased media presence. A small number of protesters gathered outside, and some students turned their chairs away from Biden during his speech, silently expressing their dissent.

After the ceremony, Morehouse issued a statement praising the graduating class for their peaceful activism. “It is fitting that a moment of organized, peaceful activism would occur on our campus while the world is watching to continue a critical conversation,” the statement read. “We are proud of the resilient class of 2024’s unity in silent protest, showing their intentionality in strategy, communication, and coordination as a 414-person unit.”

Valedictorian’s Call for Peace

DeAngelo Fletcher, the valedictorian, echoed global concerns in his address, particularly focusing on the Israel-Hamas conflict. He called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, reflecting the broader sentiment among many young people today who are increasingly vocal about international issues.

Electoral Implications and Biden’s Track Record

Biden’s speech at Morehouse comes at a critical juncture, with polls indicating a potential drop in support from key demographic groups such as young voters and Black voters. However, the polls also suggest that this dissatisfaction has not translated into increased support for Trump. Instead, it highlights a broader discontent that could affect voter turnout.

Despite these challenges, Biden remains focused on his core supporters. In the Democratic primary, his strongest performances have been in areas with significant Black populations, such as Georgia, where he secured overwhelming support from Black voters.

On campus, reactions to Biden’s speech were largely positive, despite some opposition to his selection as the commencement speaker. Dr. Tiffany Johnson, a parent of a graduating student, expressed her excitement about Biden’s presence. “He is the leader of the free world, the most important job in the world, and for him to come to speak to [Morehouse] graduates, to inspire them, is phenomenal,” she said.

Johnson also addressed the criticisms from some Black voters, describing them as part of a “bandwagon” that might not fully appreciate Biden’s contributions to the community. She viewed his speech as an opportunity to highlight his administration’s accomplishments.

Biden’s Accomplishments and Future Vision

In his address, Biden highlighted several key achievements of his administration that he believes have significantly benefited Black communities. These include a record $16 billion funding package for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), efforts to protect voting rights, and economic policies aimed at strengthening Black businesses.

Biden’s speech at Morehouse was more than just a commencement address; it was a reaffirmation of his commitment to democracy, a recognition of the vital role of Black history in America, and a call to action for continued engagement and activism. As the 2024 election approaches, his message to the graduates of Morehouse College was clear: democracy is still the way forward, and their voices are essential in shaping the future of the nation.

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