COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — President Joe Biden is returning to South Carolina, the state that played a pivotal role in his march to the Democratic presidential nomination and the White House, as the featured speaker at the graduation ceremonies this coming week at a historically Black university.
Biden on Friday will attend the December commencement at South Carolina State University, according to announcements Saturday by the White House and the school.
The Orangeburg school is the alma mater of U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the top-ranking Black member of Congress. On Saturday, Clyburn tweeted that he would walk across the commencement stage with graduates to get the diploma that he did not have the chance to receive in 1961. The school said it did not hold December ceremonies at that time, so Clyburn got his credential by mail.
The university said Clyburn was to be the keynote speaker, but he invited Biden to give the address.
The trip will reunite Biden with Clyburn in the state credited with turning around Biden’s flagging presidential bid in 2020. On the cusp of South Carolina’s key first-in-the-South primary, Clyburn gave his public backing to Biden, a longtime friend and political ally whose campaign had struggled through less—than-stellar performance in earlier-voting states.
Biden won South Carolina by nearly 30 percentage points, subsequently bested chief rival Bernie Sanders on Super Tuesday and claimed the nomination before defeating Republican incumbent Donald Trump in the general election.
Biden has not been back to the state since his primary win in February 2020, although other prominent administration figures have been in South Carolina during the first year of his presidency. First lady Jill Biden made two trips to the state in October, visiting Brookland Baptist Church in West Columbia, and then the Medical University of South Carolina.
Vice President Kamala Harris kicked off a nationwide vaccine campaign in Greenville this summer. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh visited union workers at the Port of Charleston in November.
Republicans potentially eyeing their party’s nomination for 2024 have made appearances in recent months. They include former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.