Students graduating from the School of Social Policy and Practice weren’t the only ones who had the chance to see Vice President Joe Biden when he spoke at the school’s commencement ceremony on Monday, May 17.

Biden, whose daughter Ashley Biden received her master of social work degree at the ceremony, arrived in Philadelphia on May 17 — and several Penn students were selected as drivers in his motorcade from the airport to Penn.

“We don’t get involved in the motorcade,” Division of Public Safety Vice President Maureen Rush said, explaining that DPS and Philadelphia Police generally “marry up with the Secret Service” when high profile officials actually arrive on campus from the airport. DPS, Philadelphia Police and the Secret Service then coordinate closely to stop traffic and ensure extra security, Rush added.

The student drivers for the motorcade were selected from volunteers from Penn Democrats, according to the Penn Dems President and College sophomore Emma Ellman-Golan.

“It’s easier for them not to have Secret Services drive,” Ellman-Golan added.

Student drivers are usually only needed whenever the President or Vice-President are in town, according to Ellman-Golan, as “not everyone gets a motorcade.”

“It would have to be for someone they’d close the streets for,” she said.

To be eligible to drive in Biden’s motorcade, volunteers had to be American citizens over 18 years of age with a valid driver’s license. PennDems could not supply the names of selected volunteers.

Volunteers signed up for a block time commitment which was longer than the actual drive to allow time to pick up the vehicles, go through security and then get to the airport.

Ellman-Golan was a driver for President Obama’s motorcade during his last visit to Philadelphia, and described the experience as “exhilarating.”

“It was pretty easy driving on the highways with police escorts to block off the streets,” she said. “The hardest thing was trying to follow the car in front of you pretty closely, especially when trying to make a right turn when driving at 75 miles per hour. My heart was pounding – driving that fast was really exciting.”

Biden was invited to speak at the commencement because has “long supported policy and legislation aimed at social change,” SP2 Dean Richard Gelles said in a press release.

“We are pleased that he has accepted our invitation to be the Commencement speaker at the graduation exercises,” the release continued.

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