President Biden declared on Saturday that white supremacy is “essentially the most harmful terrorist risk to our homeland” and warned a predominantly Black viewers that “sinister forces” embraced by his predecessor and putative challenger are attempting to reverse generations of racial progress in America.

Mr. Biden by no means named former President Donald J. Trump in his generally stark graduation tackle to the graduating class of Howard College, the nation’s most prestigious traditionally Black faculty. He alluded, nonetheless, to Mr. Trump’s previous statements to hyperlink him to racist components in American society and counsel that the presidential marketing campaign that has simply gotten underway will decide whether or not justice will prevail over hate, concern and violence.

“There are those that demonize and pit individuals in opposition to each other,” Mr. Biden mentioned. “And there are those that will do something and every little thing, regardless of how determined or immoral, to carry onto energy. That’s by no means going to be a straightforward battle. However I do know this — the oldest, most sinister forces might consider they’ll decide America’s future. However they’re incorrect. We’ll decide America’s future. You’ll decide America’s future.”

Sporting blue and white tutorial robes, the president sought to enlist the younger graduates in what he introduced as the reason for this second. He cited the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in 2020, which touched off widespread protests in opposition to police brutality, and expressed empathy with Black drivers who’re fearful when they’re pulled over by officers.

“Fearless progress towards justice usually meets ferocious pushback from the oldest and most sinister of forces,” he mentioned. “That’s as a result of hate by no means goes away. I believed after I graduated that we may defeat hate. However it by no means goes away.”

Likewise, Mr. Biden mentioned that “after the election and re-election of the primary Black American president, I had hoped the concern and violence and hate was considerably shedding floor.”

He found in any other case, he mentioned, when neo-Nazis and white supremacists clashed with counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017, and he recounted Mr. Trump’s response. “What did you hear?” he requested. “That well-known quote: ‘There are very superb individuals on either side.’ That’s after I knew, and I’m not joking, that’s after I knew I needed to keep engaged and get again into public life.”

Mr. Trump’s supporters have mentioned his line has been distorted and be aware that he did at one level condemn neo-Nazis. However as he has opened a marketing campaign to recapture the presidency, Mr. Trump has extra overtly embraced racist and extremist components in American life. Final winter, he hosted for dinner the rap artist Ye, who has made antisemitic statements, and Nick Fuentes, a distinguished white supremacist who attended the far-right Charlottesville rally.

The selection of Howard supplied Mr. Biden a chance to shore up assist in essentially the most loyal constituency within the Democratic Social gathering, one which he must win re-election subsequent yr. Whereas polls present continued sturdy assist for Mr. Biden amongst Black voters, political analysts and occasion strategists have expressed concern about an enthusiasm hole that might complicate prospects for the president, who wants excessive turnout from his base.

Mr. Biden has been stymied on objectives like cracking down on police brutality and bolstering voting rights. He did signal an govt order on federal legislation enforcement final yr, though essential items of the order haven’t been applied. Many supporters say he has fallen brief on his pledge to make systemic adjustments to the legal justice system.

However he selected Kamala Harris (a Howard graduate) as the primary Black vice chairman; appointed the primary Black girl to the Supreme Courtroom, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson; and has put extra Black ladies on the federal bench than each different president mixed. Unemployment amongst Black People fell to a file low of 4.7 p.c in April, and the hole between white and Black jobless charges shrank to its smallest ever measured.

Of explicit curiosity to his viewers on Saturday, Mr. Biden has developed a program to forgive $400 billion in pupil loans over the subsequent few many years, wiping out as much as $20,000 apiece for individuals who qualify. However the Supreme Courtroom seems poised to invalidate it.

Mr. Biden gained 92 p.c of Black voters in 2020, however solely 58 p.c mentioned they accredited of his efficiency within the newest Related Press-NORC Middle for Public Affairs Analysis ballot. A Might survey by the Economist and YouGov put his approval amongst Black adults at 71 p.c, however solely 46 p.c wished him to run once more.

Mr. Biden discovered a pleasant however not precisely exuberant crowd on Saturday. Graduating seniors and their households stuffed a lot of Capital One Enviornment, the house of the Washington Capitals and Wizards, and greeted him warmly, though a dozen stood in protest, some holding indicators about points like navy analysis. The ambivalence amongst college students and graduates was evident in interviews on campus earlier than the ceremony.

“He’s a reasonably good individual,” Mariah Davis, 19, a mechanical engineering main, mentioned of Mr. Biden. “He’s simply actually making an attempt to advocate for lots of teams of people who find themselves unheard.”

However some college students mentioned they weren’t certain they may join with him. “We really feel somewhat unusual about him coming to graduation as a result of clearly he can train us issues about values, however what’s he going to say that hasn’t been mentioned earlier than?” mentioned Alisa Drake, 19, a sophomore. “What can Biden say to us as Black college students going out into the work pressure?”

If the selection subsequent yr was between Mr. Biden and a Republican, she mentioned she would vote for Mr. Biden. However she was lukewarm about it. “I’m not likely excited,” she mentioned. “I really feel like there hasn’t been a candidate just lately that has simply caught my eye, that is rather like, ‘Wow, they’re actually about one thing and fascinated by serving to my technology.’”