Last week I had the pleasure of seeing former vice-president, Joe Biden, speak at Drew University, which is where I go to school. I can honestly say that it was one of the best experiences I have had in my life. To quote Leslie Knope after meeting him “He is precious cargo!” And yes, I used this on my obligatory Instagram post about the event.
Biden spent most of his talk describing how he believed the government should be fixed, and how people should change their approach to issues. Most of his ideas centered on how people need to interact with each other, and how they need to keep treating them with respect. Biden cited his close relationships with several Republican politicians, like Jon McCain, as positive examples.
One of my personal highlights from the speech was Biden’s first way to fix the government. “Both parties need to talk to each other.” He cited an example of when Senator Jesse Helms disapproved of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Biden said he thought Helms was “heartless,’’ but after learning that Helms had an adopted child with disabilities, Biden said he reconsidered his opinions on Helms. “It’s hard to dislike a person when you see what they’re facing and you know one another,’’ Biden remembered when he visited the Senate and realized there was no dining room where everyone could eat together. “All politics are personal,” he said. "We have to get to the point where you understand the person across from you. Get to know them.”
Biden contributes this to the extremely divided state our country is in, calling it an “us vs. them,” type of mentality, and calling out problems on both sides of the system. One of the ways he thinks we can build communication on both sides is by stopping the attacks on a politician’s motive. “All politics are an attack on motive,” he said. The earlier example I mentioned with Helms is a perfect example of this idea.
The last reason Biden mentioned was to keep being optimistic and focus on the positives. “There is a greater reason for optimism,” he said, “we’ve been through worse.” Biden used America’s military, research institutions, and agile venture capitalists. His most powerful statement came at the end of his speech, “Americans own this finish line. Get the hell up and take it back now.’’ The nearly packed forum gave the former vice-president a standing ovation for this comment.
Biden sat down with Drew University’s president to answer a few questions about current policies. He spoke out against the many school shootings and called for gun control, comparing it to a lawn that hasn’t been mowed in a while. When asked about the many publicized sexual assaults in 2017, Biden stated that this was a “cultural problem,’’ that had been building up for years, and encouraged men to get involved in this issue.
The last question almost didn’t need to be asked because the audience seemingly started applauding and buzzing with excitement. “Right now,” Biden started, when asked if he would run for office, “the answer’s no.” But he has a good reason for it.
Biden lost his son, Beau, to cancer in 2015, and the loss is still affecting him. “You need someone who is going to put their whole heart, soul, and effort into the presidency,” he said. “I’m not there yet.” Biden stated there were a lot of qualified people on the Democratic side that he would like to see run.
Biden ended the Q&A with memories from both his late son and his grandmother. He said that his son encouraged him to not withdraw from public when things were looking rough for their family, and how his grandmother would always tell him to “spread the faith’’ as a child. Biden encouraged the audience to “spread the faith,” and thanked them for attending.