Biden Faces Protest Ahead of College Grad. Speech Over Gaza Genocide

Certain Morehouse College alumni are calling on the historically Black institution to withdraw its invitation for the US president to deliver a commencement address, citing his involvement in the Gaza genocide.

US President Joe Biden is set to deliver the commencement address at Morehouse College in Georgia, offering him a prominent platform at one of the nation’s leading historically Black institutions.

However, this decision may subject him to potential protests over his unwavering support for “Israel” amid its ongoing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, which has entered its 201st day today. This comes as he faces reelection against former President Donald Trump.

The White House officially announced on Tuesday that Biden would speak at Morehouse College on May 19, which is also the alma mater of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Additionally, Biden will address the graduating class at the United States Military Academy at West Point on May 25.

By Tuesday afternoon, certain Morehouse graduates were sharing an online petition denouncing the college administration’s decision to invite Biden and gathering signatures to urge President David Thomas to retract the invitation.

‘College should rescind invitation’

The letter stressed that Biden’s stance on “Israel” essentially endorses genocide in Gaza, contradicting King’s pacifist ideals as demonstrated by his opposition to the Vietnam War.

“In inviting President Biden to campus, the college affirms a cruel standard that complicity in genocide merits no sanction from the institution that produced one of the towering advocates for nonviolence of the twentieth century,” the letter read, highlighting King’s position that “war is a hell that diminishes” humanity as a whole.

“If the college cannot affirm this noble tradition of justice by rescinding its invitation to President Biden, then the college should reconsider its attachment to Dr. King,” it added.

Towards the end of last week, prior to the official announcement of commencement arrangements by the school and the White House, Morehouse Provost Kendrick Brown, the right-hand person to President Thomas, sent out an email to all faculty members addressing apprehensions regarding “rumors” and confirming that the invitation to Biden was extended by the school in September of the previous year, predating October 7.

Brown invited faculty to participate in an online forum set for Thursday afternoon to address the issue. However, he said, “Please know going into this conversation that the College does not plan to rescind its accepted invitation to President Biden.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Thomas issued a statement to BET that echoed the sentiment of the provost’s letter to faculty, emphasizing that the invitation to Biden was extended in September.

Biden urged to push for Israeli withdrawal from Gaza

Rev. Stephen Green, pastor of the St. Luke AME Church in Harlem and a co-author of the alumni letter, mentioned in an interview that his group has made contact with multiple Morehouse trustees and aims to engage in a discussion with Thomas. Green, a graduate from 2014, described the initiative as consistent with the tradition of protest and activism at Morehouse, which involves social and political involvement.

“We hope this would send a strong message that we are serious about the values taught,” Green said.

He also expressed his desire for Biden to strongly advocate for the establishment of a Palestinian state and the withdrawal of “Israel” from Gaza.
Apart from potential discontent regarding “Israel”, polling indicates that Biden may need to address concerns among Black Americans more broadly. While over half of Black adults approve of his presidency’s management, according to a March AP-NORC poll, this figure has notably declined since he assumed office, when 94% supported his performance.

In the 2020 election, Biden narrowly won Georgia by a margin of fewer than 12,000 votes out of approximately five million cast. The total enrollment at Morehouse College and its neighboring institutions within the Atlanta University Center is approximately 9,000 students. Biden’s victory margin in Wisconsin was less than 21,000 votes. Although he had more comfortable victories in Michigan and Pennsylvania, Biden cannot afford to lose support from Black voters in key metropolitan areas like Detroit and Philadelphia.

Protests against Biden’s perceived pro-“Israel” stance have grown this year. Like many before him in the US foreign policy realm, Biden has consistently viewed “Israel” as a crucial ally in the Middle East.

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