Biden Draws on Themes of Manhood and Faith at Morehouse Commencement

President Biden invoked scripture and lessons from his own tragic past on Sunday in a commencement address to hundreds of young Black men at Morehouse College, saying he believes there are “extremist forces aligned against the meaning and message” of the prestigious institution.

Mr. Biden’s speech, delivered at the historically Black men’s college in Atlanta, put him directly in front of hundreds who represent a slice of the electorate that is drifting away from him over the war in Gaza and growing apathy about their choices ahead of the election. Mr. Biden used the moment to say that manhood was not about “tough talk” and “bigotry” but about calling out hate.

“Their idea of being a man is toxic,” Mr. Biden told the graduates, a reference to adversaries he did not name — but, given that his other events this weekend were focused on attacking his Republican competitor, Donald J. Trump, it was little mystery who he was talking about. “That is not you. That is not us. Being a man is about strength and respect and dignity.”

Those who stormed the Capitol with Confederate flags “are called patriots by some,” he said — a clear reference to Mr. Trump. “Not in my house.”

Mr. Biden’s speech was his first significant appearance before college students since protests over the war in Gaza began roiling campuses. For a ceremony in which students are discouraged even from decorating their caps, the signs of protest were respectful but noticeable: A small group of graduates turned to sit with their backs to Mr. Biden as he spoke, and several graduates wore the kaffiyeh, a traditional scarf associated with the Palestinians, draped over their shoulders. Some parents urged their graduating sons not to protest.

Mr. Biden, aware that many of the graduates were so angry over the war in Gaza that they turned away from him as he spoke, also called for an immediate cease-fire and said that his administration was working to secure one. He said that members of his family had been upset by the war, a group that includes Jill Biden, the first lady, who has urged her husband in private to bring a stop to it.

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