President Biden to speak at Morehouse College commencement

President Joe Biden speaks about voting rights during at Clark Atlanta University on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022.  Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

President Joe Biden speaks about voting rights during at Clark Atlanta University on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

President Joe Biden will deliver the commencement address at Morehouse College’s May 19 graduation ceremony.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported the plans Monday afternoon, citing sources familiar with the discussions. The White House confirmed the president’s planned appearance in an advisory Tuesday.

His remarks in Atlanta come as Biden has been trying to shore up his appeal to young Black voters ahead of a rematch against former President Donald Trump in November. Georgia is crucial to both campaigns, who see the state as a pivotal November battleground.

In 2013, Barack Obama became the first sitting president to give the commencement address at Morehouse, the historically Black college near downtown Atlanta. Officials at Morehouse College would not comment on the Biden speculation Monday.

Biden’s visit also come in the middle of widespread concern — particularly among college students — about the role of the United States’ support for Israel in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In February, more than 1,100 people — including Morehouse students — signed an online petition urging the Atlanta University Center Consortium to publicly express its solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Biden is familiar with Atlanta’s Black colleges. In 2022, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Atlanta University Center, which includes Morehouse, to promote voting rights legislation. Biden visited Morehouse in 2015 to raise awareness of a federal effort to address sexual assaults on college campuses.

A Biden appearance at the nation’s only HBCU for Black men could be critical as the country heads toward a long summer of presidential campaigning.

Biden and his Republican challenger Donald Trump are virtually tied in many polls, so Black voter turnout promises to be crucial.

In 2020, 95% of Black women and 87% of Black men voted for Biden — representing the two most loyal demographic groups.

Arguing that Trump’s record on the economy and his passage of a criminal justice law were more beneficial for Black communities, Republicans have tried to drive a wedge between Black voters and the Democratic Party. Trump supporters have even suggested that his recent legal troubles were appealing to Black voters.

Democrats have dismissed Republican talking points as disinformation, but in a recent Wall Street Journal poll, about 30% of Black men said they were either definitely or probably going to vote for the former president in November.

Biden has also tried to shore up support among young voters through his attempts to reduce or eliminate student loan debt. Four years after graduation, Black students owe an average of 188% more than white students borrowed, according to the Education Data Initiative, a research organization.