While praising decades of support from Historically Black Colleges and Universities Friday, President Joe Biden called his Vice President Kamala Harris, an HBCU alumnus, “President Harris.”
Harris completed her undergraduate degree at Howard University, which Biden noted in his speech. She actually did become the first woman in U.S. history to hold presidential power, briefly, when the president had a routine colonoscopy last month.
This week, White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed that Harris would be President Joe Biden's running mate again if he runs for reelection in 2024.
Biden was delivering a commencement address to students at South Carolina State University, an HBCU located in Orangeburg, S.C., when he called Harris “president.”
He also recalled support from an HBCU in his home state.
“The reason I got elected in 1972 was because of an HBCU called Delaware State University,” he said, referring to the election where he won against incumbent Republican Delaware Sen. J. Caleb Boggs. “They organized for me.”
There are 107 HBCUs in the U.S. They were established early in the 19th century to provide undergraduate and graduate level educational opportunities to people of African descent at a time when Black students were not welcome at existing public and private institutions of higher education, according to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
Biden said South Carolina State has a fond place in his mind along with Delaware State, since he remembers seeing a school baseball cap in the crowd during his inauguration.
“Your time here has come during a tumultuous and consequential moment in modern American history,” he said. “I’m confident you’ll meet the moment. You’re ready because you are part of a proud and sacred tradition, an HBCU tradition: 180 years of excellence.”
During the speech, Biden lauded the legacy of HBCU graduates, but acknowledged that the schools often don’t have large endowments like other universities, and that Black Americans face discrimination that can alienate them from success others have access to. He said his administration will work to support HBCU students financially and invest in the schools.
“Too many HBCUs don’t have the laboratories, don’t have the capacity,” Biden said.
Funding for HBCUs planned by the Biden-Harris administration includes $3.7 billion included in the American Rescue plan.