President Joe Biden shows of his Naval Academy jacket after speaking during the U.S. Naval Academy Graduation and Commissioning Ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. on Friday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
President Joe Biden on Saturday remarked on the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and other violence in the United States during his commencement speech to graduating students at the University of Delaware.
Biden, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the university in 1965, told students they were graduating during a “consequential and defining time” in history during which the United States has “faced some of its most difficult tests.”
The president said that he had decided not to run for office again until the deadly white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
“In the United States of America, in the 21st century, people coming out of fields at night carrying torches,” Biden said.
“Close your eyes. Remember what you saw. Their veins bulging, preaching the same hate — white supremacy — chanting the same Nazi phrases — not figuratively, literally, that were being chanted in the ’30s in Europe. Torches lit again.”
Biden said that he learned from the Charlottesville protests, during which a white supremacist ran over counter-protester Heather Heyer with his car and killed her, that “you can’t eliminate hate.”
He added that, nearly four years later, a “mob of insurrectionists stormed the Capitol” which he called “the very citadel of democracy.”
“Imagine what you’d be thinking today if you had heard this morning, before you got here, that a group of a thousand people broke down the doors of the parliament in Great Britain, killed two police officers, smashed and ransacked the office of members of the British Parliament, or any other,” Biden said.
“What would you think? What would you think? And then, just this month when we thought that white supremacy was finally being got a hold of, Buffalo, New York — a shopping center in a Black community.”
Biden told the students that he will be visiting Uvalde on Sunday to meet with the families of the 19 children and two adult teachers who were killed during the mass shooting earlier this week.
“Let’s be clear: Evil came to that elementary school classroom in Texas, to that grocery store in New York, to far too many places where innocents have died,” Biden said.
“In the face of such destructive forces, we have to stand stronger. We must stand stronger. We cannot outlaw tragedy, I know, but we can make America safer. We can finally do what we have to do to protect the lives of the people and of our children.”
Biden also invoked his friendship with the late Sen. John McCain, a Republican, as a message for bipartisanism in the United States.
“This is not about blue and red, rural and urban. It’s about America,” Biden said. “The right to govern ourselves. The right to determine our own destinies, to overcome division and despair, and to meet the challenges of our time with grit and, maybe equally important, with some grace. To press ahead determined, resolved, and full of hope.”
Biden’s comments came after former President Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, spoke against gun control measures at a conference for the National Rifle Association held in Texas on Friday.
Trump said that in the aftermath of the mass shooting, there was a “parade of cynical politicians seeking to exploit the tears of sobbing families to increase their own power and take away our constitutional rights.”
“Every time a disturbed or a demented person commits such a hideous crime, there is always a grotesque effort by some in our society to use the suffering of others to advance their own extreme political agenda,” Trump said.
“Even more repulsive is their rush to shift blame away from the villains who commit acts of mass violence and to place that blame onto the shoulders of millions of peaceful, law-abiding citizens who belong to organizations such as our wonderful NRA.”