President Joe Biden encountered silent protests while delivering the commencement address at Morehouse College in Atlanta on Sunday. Some students and faculty opposed his visit due to his handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.

Valedictorian DeAngelo “DJ” Fletcher, in his speech before Biden’s address, called for an “immediate and permanent cease-fire in Gaza.” When Biden spoke, he acknowledged the issue, stating, “What’s happening in Gaza and Israel is heartbreaking,” and emphasized his support for peaceful protests.

Biden shared his frustration over the conflict and reiterated his commitment to a two-state solution. “I am working to make sure we finally get a two-state solution. The only solution: for two people to live in peace, security, and dignity,” he said.

During the ceremony, some graduates wore Palestinian flags and keffiyehs. A few turned their chairs away, and a faculty member stood with her back to Biden, raising her fist. Alumni, however, showed support with standing ovations.

Faculty members displayed the Democratic Republic of Congo’s flag behind Biden, highlighting another humanitarian crisis. Morehouse’s valedictorian stressed the school’s legacy of standing for peace and justice, urging solidarity with the oppressed.

Biden echoed calls for a Gaza cease-fire, expressing ongoing efforts to bring more aid to the region and negotiate peace. The Rev. Hardy Spurgeon Bennings III, who opened the ceremony with a prayer, also emphasized the importance of holding those in power accountable and protecting human life worldwide.

Morehouse College praised the students’ silent protest as part of its social justice tradition and commended Biden’s administration for listening and responding to the community’s concerns. The college affirmed its commitment to fostering positive societal change through dialogue and critique.

Biden’s speech came during an election year in a key swing state and in front of a crucial voting bloc. Polling indicates challenges in gaining support from young and Black voters who backed him in 2020. Despite recent protests on campuses, Morehouse decided not to rescind Biden’s invitation, ultimately confirming his honorary doctorate.