(A/P photo/Carolyn Kaster)
When the Fort Jackson military band played the first notes of “Hail to the Chief” indicating the entrance of President Joe Biden to the Smith Hammond Middleton Memorial Center at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg this morning, I was surprised to feel tears rolling down my cheeks as I watched him enter to deliver the commencement address to the 128 member graduating class. I’m not sure what moved me – I think I must feel sorry for this elderly white man who is trying so hard to do good for so many. And yet, recent polls indicated his popularity with the American people is a dismal 36%. I’ve always been part of a minority; maybe that’s why I cried.
The Covid pandemic rages again with new twists and turns and more than 800,000 deaths in this country, vaccinations have become political punching bags, Americans may not get all they want for Christmas (and if they do it will cost more), gasoline prices spiked, black lives really don’t matter to police, workers are hard to hire because they are insisting on a decent wage which trickles down like a Reagan economic theory, the Senate is up to its ass in alligators who have forgotten their initial objective was to drain the swamp, January 6th. insurrectionists who attempted to overthrow American democracy are being released on their own recognizance and allowed to leave the country without supervision by judges who support the Big Lie, voting rights are assailed in every state and oh yeah, Russian autocratic president Putin has sent an army of 94,000 out of a projected 175,000 troops to the Ukrainian border to possibly invade in early 2022…to name a few of the problems President Biden has wrestled with in 2021.
With these overwhelming concerns, what was this President doing in our state today giving a commencement address at a relatively small HBCU in a relatively smaller town 47 miles south of Columbia? The answer is his friendship with Congressman Jim Clyburn who resurrected Biden’s candidacy in the South Carolina Democratic Primary that made him the frontrunner and ultimately the party’s choice for its presidential nomination in 2020. President Biden can thank Representative Clyburn for his desk in the Oval Office of the White House if he has time to catch his breath, and today he did just that.
Six decades ago a twenty-one year old young man from Sumter, South Carolina graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from the only publicly funded Black college in the state – now known as South Carolina State University in Orangeburg. His name was James Enos Clyburn, and he currently serves as the Majority Whip for the US House of Representatives where he has been a Democratic member since 1993.
Jim Clyburn graduated from the HBCU in December, 1961 at a time when the college only held graduation ceremonies in the spring so his diploma was mailed to him. When spring rolled around in 1962, Clyburn was already teaching in Charleston and married to his wife Emily who he met while attending State. Both Jim and Emily Clyburn never forgot where they were from or where they attended college.
Apparently sixty years later, though, Clyburn still wanted “to walk.” But on this occasion while his family watched, his diploma was presented to him by his friend Joe Biden, the President of the United States of America. In his introductory remarks, Rep. Clyburn recalled the parting advice his wife of 58 years gave to him before her death in September, 2019: if we want to win the White House in 2020, Joe Biden must be our party’s nominee.
Hail to the Chief Joe and Hail to his friend Jim during this holiday season and in the New Year. Bless their hearts, minds and bodies in a time that tries all of our souls.
Stay safe, stay sane, get vaccinated and please stay tuned for a holiday post on a lighter note: Dear Santa, Send Boxing Gloves.