Biden speaks at Capitol One Arena in Washington, D.C. to Howard University graduates in a keynote address where he calls out racism and white supremacy.
In a commencement address to graduates of Howard University, President Joe Biden warned: “The most dangerous threat to our homeland is white supremacy.”
“And I’m not saying this because I’m at a Black HBCU,” he said from Washington, D.C.’s Capitol One Arena, adding, “I say it wherever I go.”
Biden drew a sobering picture of the national political landscape with his address, touching on the threats to American democracy, threats to suppress Black history, and threats of violence — including the recent bomb scares made to HBCUs, or historically Black colleges and universities.
“I thought, when I graduated, we could defeat hate,” Biden said. (He earned a law degree from Syracuse in 1968.) “But it never goes away. It only hides under the rocks.”
He added: “And when it’s given oxygen, it comes out from under that rock. That’s why we know this truth as well: Silence is complicity.”
Biden then reiterated a line he’s spoken often in past speeches, that America is “the only country founded on an idea,” although one that “we’ve never fully lived up to.”
He urged the graduates to “fight for the soul of our nation” — a major theme of his last presidential campaign and his current one.
“We know that American history has not always been a fairytale. From the start, it’s been a constant push and pull, for more than 240 years, between the best of us, the American idea that we’re all created equal, and the worst of us, the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart,” Biden said.
“It’s a battle that’s never really over, but on the best days, enough of us have the guts and the heart to stand up for best in us, to choose love over hate, unity over disunity, progress over retreat, to stand up against the poison of white supremacy.”
It’s not the first time Biden has called out white supremacy by name; he has done so on several other occasions, including the racist mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket nearly one year to the day. The man who gunned down 10 people at the store received a life sentence back in February.
In recent years, the FBI and other federal officials have repeatedly warned against the threat posed by racist far-right extremists in the United States.
Biden is the seventh sitting president to deliver the keynote address at Howard’s commencement ceremony, according to the school.
Vice President Kamala Harris is an alum of the university; Biden received an honorary Howard Doctor of Letters.