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Biden Lauds South Carolina State Grads in Commencement Speech

Still, Mr. Biden told the graduates that his administration — which includes the first vice president who is a graduate of a historically Black college, Kamala Harris — had already invested billions of dollars in historically Black colleges and universities and would deliver billions more. “I’m committed to doing everything I can to make real the promise of America for all Americans, for all of you,” he said.

The crowds that greeted Mr. Biden’s motorcade from Columbia, S.C., to the South Carolina State campus included pockets of protesters and supporters of former President Donald J. Trump, who won South Carolina in 2020 while losing the election to Mr. Biden. Inside the small arena that housed the commencement, where the vast majority of graduates and attendees were Black, Mr. Biden found a friendlier audience. “Go Joe!” someone shouted as he took the stage.

The appearance of a sitting president at a fall commencement ceremony was entirely the work of Mr. Clyburn, who graduated from South Carolina State in 1961 but did not walk across a stage to receive his diploma. He had been invited by the school to do so this year, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of earning his diploma, and to deliver the keynote address. But Mr. Clyburn had a better idea, he told the graduates.

He called Cedric Richmond, the director of Mr. Biden’s Office of Public Engagement, to tell him he would be marching with the graduating class to receive his diploma — and he wanted help securing the speaker.

“I told him,” Mr. Clyburn said, “I think it would be great to get my degree from the president of the United States, Joe Biden.”

Mr. Biden, he said, immediately accepted.

Mr. Clyburn urged graduates to thank their parents and other supporters of their college journeys. He also preached resilience, telling how he had lost three bids for Congress before he finally won his seat.

Mr. Biden painted a similar picture, telling the crowd how he had been “shellacked” in the first two contests in the 2020 campaign and was struggling in the third, South Carolina, before Mr. Clyburn offered his endorsement.