May 6, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: White House bars Cabinet from commencement addresses

Illustration of a microphone covered with a face mask

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

An anti-coronavirus edict will keep a group of high-profile speakers from taking the podium at this year's college commencement ceremonies: Biden administration Cabinet members.

Why it matters: Speakers who'd normally serve as the new administration's face to the public — or sell President Biden's array of new policies — are banned from speaking in person because the White House doesn't want to encourage super-spreader events.

  • “The White House and administration remain vigilant to the public health challenges posed by the pandemic, and we’re taking every step necessary to prevent the spread of the virus and model leadership for the country,” a White House official told Axios in a statement.
  • Members can still speak virtually.

But, but, but: The rules don’t apply equally to everyone.

  • The president himself is scheduled to deliver the keynote address in person during the U.S. Coast Guard Academy's graduation ceremony May 19.
  • Tradition has the commander in chief rotate annually among the four service academies.
  • Coast Guard officials said this year's exercise will again be closed to the public, and the number of guests will be greatly reduced from past years because of the pandemic, the Associated Press reported.

Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver the keynote address at the Naval Academy’s commissioning ceremony this month, a White House official told the Capital Gazette.

  • The ceremony will be in person but at limited capacity.
  • In addition, first lady Jill Biden will deliver a commencement address at George Mason University next Friday — but virtually.

Between the lines: The Centers for Disease Control's latest guidance says people can gather outside or conduct activities outdoors without wearing a mask.

  • The exception is certain crowded settings and venues, such as concerts.
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