O'Rourke to give commencement address at Texas's oldest black college

O'Rourke to give commencement address at Texas's oldest black college
© Greg Nash

Democratic presidential hopeful and former Texas Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Harris to appear in CNN climate town hall after backlash Castro qualifies for next Democratic primary debates MORE will give the commencement address next month at Paul Quinn College, Texas’s oldest historically black college and university (HBCU), as he seeks to gin up support among African American voters. 

The appearance, which O’Rourke’s campaign announced Wednesday morning, comes after two speeches the 2020 candidate gave at the college last year while he was campaigning for the Senate.

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“It is an all-time honor to return to Paul Quinn College and join the inspiring graduating class who continues to be our example of the leadership, power and joy we see in young people across America who are already guiding us on every important issue of the day,” O’Rourke said in a statement. 

“We are smarter, stronger and better able to meet the challenges ahead of us because of the bold, innovative, transformational work occurring at Paul Quinn College and HBCUs across the country," he said. 

The announcement comes as O’Rourke workshops his message to black Democratic primary voters who are poised to play a large role in the party’s nominating process. The El Paso, Texas, native is fresh off a campaign swing through South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia in which he attended a black church in Columbia, S.C., and marched with protesters who participated in the 1969 Charleston hospital strike.

The commencement speech could also be a bid to shore up support at home while O’Rourke, 46, faces off against one of the most diverse Democratic primary fields in modern history. Texas primary voters will cast their ballots on Super Tuesday, producing the second largest delegate count behind California. A poor showing in his native Lone Star State could end his chances of getting the nomination. 

O’Rourke worked to establish a solid fanbase in Texas during his failed 2018 bid to unseat Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters MORE (R), raking in a record amount of donations and garnering the most votes ever received by a Democrat in Texas history. 

Michael Sorrell, the president of Paul Quinn College, is also a staple in Texas Democratic politics. He was encouraged by fellow Democrats to run for governor last year and is rumored to be a potential Senate candidate this year, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Sanders unveils plan to double union membership in first term The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden expands lead in new national poll MORE (D-N.Y.), another 2020 presidential hopeful, visited the college in February.