Biden delivers Morehouse commencement address

President Joe Biden delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College on Sunday, telling graduates that he hears their voices of protest over the Israel-Hamas war and describing scenes from the conflict as "heartbreaking."

Morehouse is a male-only historically Black college in Atlanta. Biden's commencement speech sparked backlash among the school’s faculty and supporters who oppose Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza.  

"I support peaceful nonviolent protest," he told students, some who wore keffiyeh scarves around their shoulders on top of their black graduation robes. "Your voices should be heard, and I promise you I hear them."

The president told the crowd that it was a "humanitarian crisis in Gaza, that's why I've called for an immediate cease-fire to stop the fighting" and bring home the hostages taken when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. The comments, toward the end of his address that also reflected on American democracy and his role in safeguarding it, were the most direct recognition to U.S. students about the campus protests that have swept across the country.

Nearly all the streets around the campus were shut down for the event. As the packed crowd gathered just before graduates began filing into the quad, Associate Provost Mel Foster warned: "Although we respect everyone’s right to free speech, Morehouse College has issued guidelines to ensure we are in line with the law."


U.S. President Joe Biden speaks onstage during the 2024 140th Morehouse College Commencement Ceremony at Morehouse College on May 19, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/WireImage)

After speaking at Morehouse in Atlanta, Biden will travel to Detroit to address an NAACP dinner. It's part of his outreach strategy to Black voters, who have softened in their support of him since 2020. 

RELATED; Biden condemns current antisemitism amid college protests, Rafah assault

Earlier this week, Biden's campaign announced that he will debate former President Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, on June 27 and again Sept. 10. CNN said the June 27 debate won’t have a live audience.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.