Morgan State University officials are expecting President Clinton to deliver a commencement address to more than 900 graduates at the Northeast Baltimore campus May 18, although White House officials have yet to confirm formally that he will attend the event.
"We are sweating bullets," said Wiley A. Hall III, Morgan State's director of communications, who is also a member of the committee planning the school's commencement exercises. "They are cutting it close. But we feel it is imminent."
Presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said yesterday that Clinton had tentatively agreed to deliver the campus address but that no final plans had been made. The president might give a series of speeches on racism and racial conciliation, McCurry said, and was considering Morgan State as a site for one of them.
Efforts to bring the president to the historically black public university have been made by Morgan State President Earl S. Richardson and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
If Clinton does appear at Morgan State next month, it will be the first time he has given a commencement address in Maryland. His wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, spoke last year to graduates at the University of Maryland College Park.
The president has delivered commencement addresses at several colleges and universities in each year of his presidency, including Northeastern University in Boston, New Hampshire Technical College, Princeton University and the Coast Guard Academy.
In an interview, Richardson praised the president's stances on race and education, areas Clinton has attempted to make touchstones of his administration.
Clinton has called for national standards for public school students and incentives to help middle-class parents pay tuition bills.
Recently, he has taken several symbolic steps designed to promote racial healing, such as honoring previously unheralded black World War II veterans for their heroism and apologizing on behalf of the nation for the syphilis experiments carried out for decades on hundreds of black Alabama men without their knowledge.
"We would look forward with great anticipation to his visit to the campus," Richardson said. "I think he'll find great comfort and support in this community for the things he's espousing.
"Obviously, it would be historic for Morgan. The fact that the president would choose Morgan for the commencement program is certainly a compliment to our students, our faculty and, I believe, all the things that we have been trying to do to improve educational opportunity for our young people."
Pub Date: 4/24/97
Carl M. Cannon of The Sun national staff contributed to this article.