This is an audio transcript of the “Randall’s Thoughts” segment of HBCU Pulse Radio on SiriusXM. To hear the audio version of this commentary, click below!
Yes, so on today’s Randall’s Thoughts I want to talk about commencement season. Commencement season is an amazing time in college life. It signifies the end of your collegiate journey and the start of what we sometimes consider real adult life. Due to the pomp and circumstance of commencement, colleges often go out and get heavy hitter speakers to motivate the graduating class. Just this Spring we’ve seen Oprah at Tennessee State, Rickey Smiley at Miles College and Morris Chestnut at North Carolina A&T.
Howard always seems to get the heaviest of hitters to grace the stage as the commencement speaker. So, this year, the Mecca invited our 46th President of the United States Joe Biden to address the Spring 2023 Howard University Graduates. President Biden was also given an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters. President Biden is the seventh sitting US President to speak at Howard’s commencement which is amazing. But, of course, what should be a positive moment has turned negative. People have turned President Biden’s speech into a political ploy to weaken support for his re-election campaign.
The stir this time comes from President Biden openly condemning White Supremacy in his commencement address.
But on the best days, enough of us have the guts and the hearts to st- — to stand up for the best in us. To choose love over hate, unity over disunion, progress over retreat. To stand up against the poison of white supremacy, as I did in my Inaugural Address — to single it out as the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland is white supremacy. (Applause.) And I’m not saying this because I’m at a Black HBCU. I say it wherever I go.
This one moment from the speech took on a life of its own with detractors saying that he was “pandering” to black voters by speaking about white supremacy and racism at an HBCUs. To say that President Biden is pandering saying this at Howard during his address is absurd. Listen, it’s ok if you have a valid critique but folks are obsessed with finding anything to challenge the Biden/Harris administration.
Let me give you an example of valid criticism I have. I’ve watched nearly every speech that President Biden has given at an HBCU during his tenure. His commencement remarks seem to always have the sound of a campaign stump speech. I’m not the biggest fan of that, as I believe that commencement speeches should be all about giving words of encouragement to the graduate as well as a few tips for the journey ahead. President Biden’s commencement speech remarks sometimes sound as if he’s listing his accomplishments with black people and reaffirming his commitment to standing against racism and white supremacy.
But, that very critique that I have oddly enough is defense against these baseless claims that he’s pandering with his comments. President Biden’s condemnation of white supremacy and his talk about restoring the soul of the nation isn’t new! He does, in fact, say this everywhere that he goes!
Let me give you an example. Here’s President Biden in December 2021 addressing the Fall graduates of South Carolina State.
And finally, we continue to confront the oldest and darkest forces in this nation: hate and racism. Despite all the laws enacted through the struggles we know, we knew we could make progress. But what I didn’t realize is you can defeat hate, but you can’t eliminate it. It just slides back under a rock. And when given oxygen by political leaders, it comes out ugly and mean as it was before.
We can’t give it any oxygen. We have to step on it. We have to respond to it. (Applause.)
Doesn’t that sound oddly familiar to his remarks at Howard University? I’ll do you one better! You might say “Well, South Carolina State is an HBCU! He was pandering there too!” Well, here’s President Biden in May 2022 speaking at his alma mater the University of Delaware during their Spring Commencement.
I decided to seek the presidency. When I had concluded — I was a professor at Penn — I was never going to run again. And then, Charlottesville.
In the United States of America, in the 20th century — 21st century — people coming out of fields at night carrying torches. Close your eyes. Remember what you saw. Their veins bulging, preaching the same hate — white supremacy; chanting the same Nazi phrases — not figuratively, literally — that were being chanted in the ‘30s in Europe. Torches lit again.
Did you hear that? President Biden spoke again about the ills of White Supremacy at a PWI! No one said a word about it! But now, seven months from 2024, it’s a problem. He’s “pandering”. All of this is just campaign speak. I can play even more of his speeches to prove the premise that the President said for himself: he says this everywhere he goes. Don’t fall for it. As we head towards November 2024, we’re going to see many coordinated political attacks and propaganda aimed at the black community to depress our vote. We can’t fall for it! We must always make sure we’re up on the facts and always lead conversations with truth. After all, that’s what our HBCUs have prepared us to do.
And those are my thoughts on today.
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