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‘A great day to be a bulldog’: SC State prepares for Biden visit

South Carolina State University will welcome President Joe Biden Friday as its commencement...
South Carolina State University will welcome President Joe Biden Friday as its commencement speaker.(Live 5)
Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 9:43 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2021 at 5:31 PM EST
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ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WCSC) - The interim president of South Carolina State University said the college is preparing for a historic visit from President Joe Biden on Friday.

Alexander Conyers called it “a great day to be a bulldog,” referring to the university’s mascot, at a Wednesday morning news conference in Orangeburg.

Biden will serve as the commencement speaker as 138 graduates are expected to walk across the stage and receive their degrees.

“We have done some research, and we have learned that this is the first time a sitting president has ever served as a commencement speaker for this institution in our 125-year history,” Conyers said.

In 1998, he said the university did welcome then-U.S. First Lady Barbara Bush as commencement speaker on Mother’s Day of that year.

One of the graduates who will walk across that stage will be U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, who was originally slated to be the keynote speaker before calling Conyers late last Thursday night, the interim president said.

“And he says, ‘Mr. President, I’ve been thinking, and I just don’t think I’ll be a great commencement speaker,’” Conyers said. “I’m thinking, ‘Congressman, it’s Thursday. The graduation is a week from now.’ He says, ‘So instead, I would like to offer up the president.’ I’m saying, ‘The president? Is that Claflin, Clemson, or Carolina?’

“And he said, ‘No, the President of the United States.’ I said, ‘Wow.’”

Clyburn, a 1961 graduate of South Carolina State, did not have the opportunity to walk across the stage that year because the school did not offer a December ceremony. The university said Clyburn received his credential by mail.

The trip to South Carolina State will be Biden’s first time back in the Palmetto State since his sweeping victory in the state’s Democratic primary in February 2020, setting up his path to the Democratic nomination en route to the White House.

The win has been attributed in large part thanks to the influential endorsement of Clyburn, whose district includes Orangeburg and the South Carolina State campus.

“Joe Biden has a great relationship with this state,” Clyburn told reporters Wednesday. “I said to him way back before the election that I didn’t want him to forget South Carolina, and he’s demonstrated with this visit that he’s not going to forget South Carolina.”

South Carolina’s lone Democrat in Congress said two significant pieces of legislation championed by the president — the American Rescue Plan Act and the infrastructure bill — will benefit South Carolinians, adding that Biden has also secured funding for major projects in the state, including improvements at the Port of Charleston.

“I talk to Joe Biden a lot about the needs of rural America, the needs of South Carolina, and he’s very sensitive to it, and he’s deserving of a whole lot more credit from South Carolinians than he will ever get, and I basically suspect that’s because he has a ‘D’ [for Democrat] behind his name,” Clyburn said.

The university says commencement seating will be limited to students, faculty and invited guests.

The ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at Smith Hammond Middleton Memorial Center.

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