Vice President Harris to embark on college tour, including top HBCUs, in swing states

The White House said the tour will focus on “key issues that disproportionately impact young people across the country,” including book bans and voter suppression.

The White House announced on Thursday that Vice President Kamala Harris will embark on a nationwide college tour to mobilize students and young people in swing states that will be crucial in the 2024 election.

The “Fight for Our Freedoms College Tour” includes stops at three of the nation’s top HBCUs, kicking off on Sept. 14 at Hampton University in Virginia. Harris will head to North Carolina on Sept. 15 to North Carolina A&T University and on Sept. 26, to Morehouse College, the nation’s only all-male historically Black college, in Atlanta. 

Vice President Kamala Harris will begin a college tour this month in an effort to mobilize students before the 2024 election, Here, she speaks in January 2022 to a crowd at the Atlanta University Center Consortium, part of both Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, a stop on her new tour. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)

The vice president will wrap up her college tour at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, College of Southern Nevada, and Northern Arizona University. 

The White House said in a release that the tour will focus on “key issues that disproportionately impact young people across the country,” including book bans, voter suppression, gun violence, climate change, LGBTQ+ equality, and reproductive rights.

“This generation is critical to the urgent issues that are at stake right now for our future,” Harris said in a statement. “It is young leaders throughout America who know what the solutions look like and are organizing in their communities to make them a reality. My message to students is clear: We are counting on you, we need you, you are everything.”

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, applauded the college tour by the vice president, whom she praised as “very knowledgeable” on the key issues Harris will raise with students.

“She’s worked closely with members of Congress, like myself, on any number of these issues [and] she’s been a leader on them when she was in the United States Senate,” Jackson Lee told theGrio.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (second from left) praised the college tour Vice President Kamala Harris (right) is about to begin. Here, the two were with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (left) in September 2018, when Harris was a senator. (Photo by Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images)

Jackson Lee said she would also like Harris to engage young people on a bill she reintroduced in the 117th Congress, HR-40, which would create a commission to study slavery and develop reparation proposals. 

“They’re interested in fairness. They’re interested in human rights and the protection of safe elections,” said the congresswoman, who is running for mayor of Houston, Texas. She added, “I think she’ll be well prepared to engage in this discussion.”

This month’s college tour is part of a series of campus visits from the vice president and comes on the heels of her “Summer of Action,” which included visits to 17 states. This year alone, Harris has been to 11 college campuses.

“This vice president has been on the move quite a bit since she took office,” Christina M. Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University, told theGrio. 

Greer noted that Harris’ visits to HBCU campuses, in particular, could serve as an opportunity to reestablish her relationship with the Black community, especially young people, due to “misinformation” about her record as a prosecutor before her political rise in the Senate and the White House. 

The political scientist explained, “She’s advocated for quite a bit and done a lot in her capacity as vice president, but I think a lot of young people, because of what’s on the internet, because of misinformation and disinformation, still only see her through the lens of attorney general, state of California.”

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about reproductive freedom in April at Howard University, one of several campuses she has visited this year. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images)

Young voters could be crucial to the 2024 reelection campaign of Harris and President Joe Biden, as they played a significant role in the Democrats’ 2020 victory in some key states like Georgia. An analysis of the 2020 election by Pew Research found that Biden-Harris voters were more racially and ethnically diverse overall than those who backed former President Donald Trump. 

However, national polling reveals that both the president’s and vice president’s favorability remains low.

Democrats are going to have to work hard to win over young voters, who are likely disillusioned over some key issues like student loan debt forgiveness and climate change, Greer said. She told theGrio, “People are gonna say, ‘Well, you did some things on student loan forgiveness, but not everything…you did some things on environmental protections, but you still have drilling.”

One strategy to connect with young Black voters, in particular, is making the economic case for why they should care about key issues championed by Democrats. 

“Black voters are savvy voters,” Greer said. “All of these policies are incredibly important, and I think that students care about them, but they need to have an economic translation to them.”

Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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