Students Turn Backs on Biden During Commencement Speech

( US President Joe Biden visited Morehouse College on May 19 to deliver a commencement speech at the historically black institution’s graduation ceremony. During the speech, some students and faculty members turned their backs to Biden in protest of his presence on campus.

Although the silent protest did not disrupt Biden’s commencement speech, it demonstrated the discontent that some young voters feel with his administration, particularly as it relates to Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Some students also donned Palestinian scarves, known as keffiyehs, during the event.

One Morehouse student, DeAngelo Fletcher, said that it is “kind of insulting” to host Biden on campus amid his contribution to the conflict. Fletcher noted that one of Morehouse’s most famous alumni is Martin Luther King Jr.—a figure known for advocating non-violence. Fletcher criticized Morehouse for hosting Biden during an election year, characterizing his attendance as an attempt to reach young black voters.

However, Biden expressed support for non-violent protest in his speech. Biden attempted to relate to the pro-Palestinian protesters, claiming that the conflict breaks his heart as well. The conflict is one of the most complicated problems in the world, Biden said.

Later on May 19, Biden delivered a speech in Detroit to a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Biden used the speech to blast 2024 election opponent Donald Trump.

Biden suggested that Trump would have treated January 6 protesters differently if they were black. The Trump campaign called Biden’s statement “preposterous” and said that he was trying to distract from his own weaknesses, including high inflation and poor poll numbers.

Black voters continue to favor Biden and the Democratic Party as a whole, although Trump has made gains with the demographic. A survey of black Americans found that Trump’s favorability relative to Biden’s has grown since 2022. Additionally, less black Americans believe that Trump is biased than did in 2020, whereas more now believe that Biden is biased, the poll found.

Several months away from Election Day, it appears that Biden is trying to solidify his support among black Americans. However, the polls and protests show that it may be a challenging task.

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