Biden calls Gaza 'humanitarian crisis,' some Morehouse graduates turn their backs - GulfToday

Biden calls Gaza 'humanitarian crisis,' some Morehouse graduates turn their backs


Graduating students turn their back on Joe Biden as he delivers a commencement address during Morehouse College's graduation ceremony in Atlanta on Sunday. AFP

US President Joe Biden delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College on Sunday, receiving applause and cheers but also spurring some students to turn their backs to Biden as his backing of Israel in its war with Hamas riles college graduations across the country.

Biden's address at Morehouse College, a historically Black men's college in Atlanta, is part of an election-year platform to repair bonds with young Black men and address the anger over his position on Israel.

"It’s a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, that’s why I’ve called for an immediate ceasefire," Biden said to applause.

"I know it angers and frustrates many of you including in my family," he said.

Biden was largely uninterrupted by protests that have shut down graduations elsewhere, although in addition to students who turned their chairs around to turn their backs to him, one graduate appeared to hold up a Palestinian flag briefly and an audience member stood and turned their back with their fist raised.

Biden also made remarks more typical of traditional commencement addresses, saying: Education "makes you free. And a Morehouse education makes you fearless."

Some graduates wore keffiyehs -- the black-and-white head scarf which has become an emblem of solidarity with the Palestinian cause -- tied around their gowns, while the valedictorian called for a permanent and immediate ceasefire.

Israel's invasion of Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, youth discontent with the Democratic incumbent and a close 2024 race have contributed to an unusually high profile for what is normally a platitude-laden speech of encouragement for new graduates.

This year, Biden is hoping for buzz-worthy, breakthrough moments that can sell his vision to jaded voters who approve of his policies but are not sold on the 81-year-old candidate himself. Campaign officials have flagged signs of diminished enthusiasm among younger Black men in particular.

Morehouse was founded in 1867 to educate Black people newly liberated from slavery, and its alumni include the civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. The US president has lavished attention on historically Black colleges and universities, directed billions in funding to them and praised them as tools of enhanced economic mobility.




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