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Biden appeals to Black voters, says he’s working toward ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza at Morehouse opening


President Joe Biden touted his administration’s efforts to place Black Americans in the highest echelons of political power during a commencement speech Sunday at Morehouse College, while acknowledging the angst brewing among young people across the United States facing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The president, speaking to graduates of a prestigious black men’s college, made a strong call for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, coupled with the release of Israeli hostages – while also calling for a long-term political solution to the crisis.

“What is happening in Gaza and Israel is heartbreaking: Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel, killing innocent people and taking people hostage; Innocent Palestinians caught in the middle of it all – men, women and children killed or displaced and in desperate need of water, food and medicine,” the president said.

Biden faced a delicate balancing act ahead of his speech at Morehouse, where some students and faculty members objected to the president’s presence on campus because of his unwavering support for Israel’s campaign against Hamas. The White House worked for weeks to allay concerns and hoped the speech would give Biden an opportunity to better connect with young black men, a group that is increasingly distancing itself from the president, according to recent polls .

Biden and his campaign know that support from Black Americans will be critical to his chances of returning to the White House — especially in battlegrounds such as Georgia, where the president delivered Morehouse’s inauguration, and Michigan, where he called former President Donald Trump “unhinged.” ” while speaking at an NAACP dinner later Sunday.

Before Biden’s opening speech, the school valedictorian invoked the name of one of his most famous former students, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in his speech to call for an end to violence in Gaza.

DeAngelo Fletcher said his “position as a Morehouse man – indeed as a human being – was to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.”

02:11 – Source: CNN

President Biden faced peaceful protests during his speech at Morehouse College

And as Biden began to speak, some graduates took part in a silent protest; one unfurled a Palestinian flag, while a handful of others turned their backs on the president. But Biden delivered his speech without any notable interruptions.

Biden acknowledged young Americans’ frustrations with the crisis in the Middle East and said the issue hits close to home.

“This is one of the most difficult and complicated issues in the world, and there is nothing easy about it – I know this angers and frustrates many of you, including my family,” Biden said. CNN previously reported that first lady Jill Biden had privately expressed concern about the humanitarian toll in Gaza.

He added: “I know this breaks your heart. It breaks mine too.

Democratic presidential candidates have enjoyed support from Black Americans since the civil rights movement, and Biden’s history with the community runs deep. But polls have shown an erosion of support for the president from black voters unhappy with his handling of the economy and his support for Israel.

Devoting much of his speech to democracy, Biden said there has been a recent national effort to cover up America’s historic wrongs against its black citizens.

“I never thought I would be president at a time when there is a national effort to ban books,” Biden said. “Not to write history, but to erase history. They don’t see you in America’s future. But they are wrong. For me, we create history, we don’t erase it. We know that black history is American history.

Extremist forces, Biden told the group of male graduates, are peddling lies about masculinity.

“Their idea of ​​being a man is toxic. I ran into them all the time when I was younger. …But it’s not you, it’s not us. You all know and demonstrate what it truly means to be a man,” he said.

Showing his support for the nation’s historically black colleges and universities, Biden said he has “no doubt that a Morehouse man will be president one day — right after an AKA Howard.” The remark appeared to demonstrate Biden’s hopes for the political future of Vice President Kamala Harris, a member of the historically Black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha and a Washington, D.C. HBCU graduate.

In recent months, Biden has largely shied away from speaking to large crowds of young people on college campuses, a shift that came shortly after his January remarks on abortion rights at George Mason University in Virginia were interrupted more than a dozen times by outraged demonstrators. his continued support for Israel in its war in Gaza.

Since then, and as the death toll among civilians, aid workers and journalists in Gaza continues to rise, this anger has only spread.

More than 1,360 student protests took place on campuses across the country from Oct. 7 to May 3, according to data compiled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. The overwhelming majority of these protests – 97% – have been peaceful, although isolated instances of property destruction and violence have garnered attention.

These cases reached a crescendo in late April and early May, when Columbia University students invaded some university buildings, a University of Texas at Austin encampment was forcibly dispersed by police, and UCLA counterprotesters launched an hour-long attack on a pro-Palestinian camp. camp.

These instances of campus unrest prompted Biden, in brief remarks from the White House earlier this month, to denounce some of the actions of campus protesters.

“I understand that people have strong feelings and deep beliefs,” Biden said at the time. “In America, we respect the right and protect the right for them to express that. But that doesn’t mean everything is going well.

While dissent is “essential to democracy,” Biden said in those remarks, it “must never lead to disorder or the denial of the rights of others.”

Biden’s Morehouse inauguration was the latest in a series of efforts undertaken by the president in recent days. both recognizing the nation’s historic racial shortcomings while simultaneously addressing the next generation of black leaders.

Speaking at the NAACP dinner in Detroit on Sunday evening, Biden sought to send a warning about his opponent, saying the presumptive GOP nominee “poses a greater threat” in a second term than in a first. “Clearly when he lost, something broke inside him,” the president said of Trump, reiterating remarks he has previously made off-camera at campaign fundraisers.

Noting that the former president pledged to pardon the Jan. 6, 2021, rioters, Biden wondered how Trump would have reacted if many of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol were black: “Let me ask you : What do you think he would have done in January? 6 if black Americans had stormed the Capitol? No, I’m serious. What do you think? I can only imagine.”

Last week, the president met with plaintiffs in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education that overturned racial segregation in schools 70 years ago. At that Thursday meeting, some relatives of the plaintiffs urged him to make the anniversary of the case a national holiday.

On Friday, Biden gave a speech at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and spoke with members of the Divine Nine, a group of historic black fraternities and sororities.

Biden’s stop at Morehouse is the second time he has visited the college during his presidency. In 2022, Biden and Harris gave a speech on middle school voting rights.

This story and headline were updated with additional information on Sunday.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.

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News Source : amp.cnn.com

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