President Joe Biden is expected to deliver the commencement speech at Howard University this month, a historically Black university in Washington. The commencement is scheduled for May 13.
The White House confirmed to CNN that Biden will also give the keynote address at the United States Air Force Academy’s commencement in El Paso County, Colorado, on June 1. He disclosed that appearance last month at the White House when he presented the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to the Air Force’s football team, the Falcons.
“In a few weeks, I’ll be headed to your home turf for commencement,” the president joked at the time. “You’re going to get stuck with me being your commencement speaker.”
Howard University, Vice President Kamala Harris’ alma mater, has received an ample amount of focus from the Biden administration since the pair took office in 2021. Last month, Harris delivered a fiery speech on abortion rights during a rally on the Howard campus, among other events.
And in January, Howard University became the first historically Black college or university – also known as an HBCU – to partner with the Department of Defense to lead a university-affiliated research center. Howard will receive $12 million per year for five years to fund research, faculty and students, the Defense Department said in a press release. The center is funded by the DOD and the US Air Force.
Biden’s remarks at the minority-serving institution will come less than a month after he announced his 2024 reelection bid, a campaign that will once again focus heavily on turning out Black voters and young voters to the ballot box.
Securing funding for the more than 100 HBCUs in the US has been a prominent feature of Biden’s domestic agenda. Early on, he proposed nearly $45 billion in funding to fix weathered campuses and help modernize the historic institutions and the communities they serve. So far in his tenure, though, the president has delivered nearly $6 billion worth in HBCU investments through the Department of Education.
Still, HBCUs remain a focus for the Biden administration, a White House official said. The president spoke at the fall commencement at South Carolina State University, an HBCU, in 2021 and delivered a virtual address for HBCU students in June 2021, amid a surge in the Covid-19 pandemic.
And he has also reestablished the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for HBCUs. Actress and Howard alumna Taraji P. Henson serves on the board.
Other administration officials will fan out to across the country to give commencement speeches at HBCUs, the White House said. They include Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, who will speak at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee; Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who will speak at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina; and Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young, who will speak at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans.
2016 was the last time a sitting president to spoke at Howard University’s commencement, with President Barack Obama addressing graduates.