Biden delivers S.C. State commencement address, Clyburn marches with graduates

South Carolina News

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WCBD)- President Joe Biden was in the Palmetto State on Friday to deliver the winter commencement address at South Carolina State University, accompanied by his long-time ally Representative Jim Clyburn.

S.C. State is a historically Black university in Orangeburg and the alma mater of Clyburn who is the House Majority Whip, South Carolina’s only congressional Democrat and the highest-ranking Black member of Congress.

When Clyburn graduated in 1961, there were no December ceremonies so he received his diploma by mail.

“This day means a great deal to me” Clyburn tweeted Friday morning. “I’ll have finally the opportunity to walk across the graduation stage.”

Clyburn was originally scheduled to deliver the commencement address but asked Biden to appear in his place, choosing to instead march with the graduates to receive his diploma on stage.

Friday’s address marked Biden’s first visit to South Carolina as President. Clyburn’s public endorsement is credited with boosting Biden in the primaries, helping him to defeat Bernie Sanders and gain the Democratic nomination in the 2020 election.

Biden is the first sitting president to deliver a commencement address in the school’s 125-year history. In his remarks, he highlighted the significant contributions and importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, known as HBCU’s and what his administration has done to support them.

He highlighted the HBCU graduates that serve in senior roles in his administration, including Vice President Kamala Harris who is a graduate of Howard University, Director of the Office of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond, and EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

Biden also discussed the work the Biden-Harris Administration has done to bolster HBCU’s including securing $2.7 billion dollars in direct emergency COVID-19 relief grants through the American Rescue Plan. About $46 million went directly to seven of South Carolina’s HBCUs. Using those funds, S.C. State announced it would forgive $9.8 million in student debts for more than 2,500 students.

Biden touched on his Build Back Better Act which sets aside roughly $2 billion in federal funding for HBCUs. The proposed budget also includes $807 million in discretionary funding and a $950 increase to the maximum Pell Grant award, which the administration said will benefit 75 percent of HBCU students who use those grants.

Biden went on to underscore the significant contributions of HBCU graduates, noting that HBCUs are responsible for more than 40 percent of Black engineers, including 47 percent of Black women engineers, 70 percent of Black doctors and dentists, 50 percent of Black lawyers, and 80 percent of Black judges

Finally, Biden’s message at Friday’s commencement ceremony was one of perseverance and optimism.

“You’re ready because you’re part of a proud and sacred tradition,” Biden said. “I’m here to congratulate you but I’m also here to let you know that your country, and this is not hyperbole, is counting on you to change to turn the dial at a moment we have a chance to do it.”

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