Examples abound of Joe Biden’s memory lapses, but one person the president seems unable to forget is George Floyd, the anniversary of whose death he commemorated in a White House event last year that included members of Floyd’s family and their ever-present chaperone, Rev. Al Sharpton. Though this year’s commemoration was reduced to a Presidential Proclamation issued on the date, a few days earlier Floyd had featured prominently in Biden’s May 19 commencement address at Morehouse College, often referred to as the nation’s premier historically black college and university (HBCU) for men.

Biden’s speech urged the assembled graduates to see themselves in Floyd, reminding them that they started college shortly after Floyd’s death. He asked the young graduates, “What is democracy if black men are being killed in the street?” Then, answering his own question, he said: “For me, that means to call out the poison of white supremacy, to root out systemic racism.”

Biden seemed to be analogizing the graduates’ future life prospects with the plight of Floyd, a career criminal whose involvement with Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020, stemmed from his decision to pass a counterfeit bill at a local store and his refusal to replace it after the clerk asked for one. Had Floyd responded to the clerk’s request, Officer Derek Chauvin and his colleagues would likely never have been on the scene.

Following the speech, Morehouse’s president, David Thomas, released a statement that mentioned the president’s call for a ceasefire in the Israel–Hamas war and his announcement of a $16 billion investment in HBCUs (more than double the $7 billion previously pledged), but it said not a word concerning his remarks about Floyd. Thomas also praised the graduates for the respectful way that several of them, some wearing keffiyehs, chose to walk out or turn their backs during Biden’s speech.

Biden faced a more disciplined audience of graduates at West Point Miliary Academy on the morning of May 24. Dressed in their formal blues, they sat up straight in their chairs. None wore keffiyehs, and none walked out or turned their backs on the president of the United States. In contrast to his speech at Morehouse, Biden made no mention of George Floyd, concentrating his remarks on international affairs, primarily concerning Israel and Gaza.

Unable to leave Floyd unmentioned entirely, however, on that same day the White House issued a statement commemorating Floyd’s death and noting the time that Biden had spent with Floyd’s family before the funeral. The statement also recalled that, two years ago, Biden signed an executive order codifying into federal law aspects of the unenacted George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, many of which have already been implemented by states and localities. Having sufficiently nodded to the progressive defund-the-police advocates still lobbying Congress to pass the Floyd Act, Biden was free to depart West Point for his home in Delaware.

Photo by Lev Radin/VIEWpress via Getty Images


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