Biden Will Speak at Morehouse and West Point Graduations

Biden Will Speak at Morehouse and West Point Graduations

President Biden will deliver commencement addresses next month at Morehouse College in Georgia and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point at a time when anger over U.S. foreign policy has led to an eruption of student protests at several campuses.

In addition to the relatively traditional speech at West Point, which presidents often deliver at least once during their tenure, the stop at Morehouse will give Mr. Biden an opportunity to speak to students at a historically Black college in a key battleground state as he works to shore up support among young voters.

The announcement from the White House on Tuesday came during heightened tensions at several universities, including Columbia, New York University and Yale, in which police have been called in to clear crowds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

Hundreds of people have been arrested while participating in campus demonstrations in recent days, and the disruptions at Columbia prompted the school to move classes online on Monday. Reports of demonstrators targeting and harassing Jewish students at Columbia over the weekend also drew rebukes from the White House, as Mr. Biden and White House aides warned that some demonstrations had veered into antisemitism or praise for those who have expressed it.

“I condemn the antisemitic protests,” Mr. Biden told reporters on Monday. “I also condemn those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.”

With rumors swirling in recent days that Mr. Biden would be the commencement speaker at Morehouse this year, the college’s provost sent an email to faculty members acknowledging unease about the selection and offering to field questions and concerns, according to an NBC report on Monday.

Representatives for Morehouse College did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A White House spokesman declined to comment on “processes happening at Morehouse” but said Mr. Biden looked forward to “going there and celebrating with the graduates.”

Mr. Biden has in recent months faced protesters angry about U.S. support for Israel as the death toll mounts in Gaza.

The clashes involving Jewish and pro-Palestinian students at Columbia and other schools over the weekend have also forced the Biden administration to weigh in on larger debates about campus speech, expressing support for students’ right to protest while warning against conduct that approaches hate speech or could precipitate violence.

“While every American has the right to peaceful protest, calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community are blatantly antisemitic, shameful and dangerous and they have no place on any college campus,” said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the White House, adding that the White House would continue monitoring unrest on college campuses.

Since last fall, the Education Department has opened investigations into dozens of schools across the country over complaints related to antisemitic and anti-Arab discrimination on campus.

And in a hearing last week, Republicans in Congress grilled Columbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, over comments made by faculty that drew complaints from Jewish students and donors and resulted in five faculty members being removed from the classroom or dismissed.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.

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