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Photo: Ananya Chandra

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Former President of Mexico Felipe Calderon sat down in Irvine Auditorium on Sept. 29 to discuss their personal relationship and the ties between their countries.

"I believe that Mexico maybe is the among the first three priorities the U.S. has to determine whether or not we succeed in the 21st century," Biden said. 

Former Vice President Biden kicked off the first of many conversations with global leaders in the inaugural Penn Biden Leaders Dialogue on Tuesday afternoon. As the final event for the Perry World House conference on "The Future of the Global Order in an Era of Nationalism," Biden and Calderon covered topics ranging from personal relationships to Eastern European politics.

Biden also spoke specifically to the Mexican students at Penn. 

"We want you to stay," Biden said. "There are more Mexican Ph.D.s in the United States of America than there are in all of Mexico. And it's one of the reasons why we are so, so very prosperous."

During her introduction, Penn President Amy Gutmann touted the response of Penn students to the recent earthquake in Mexico. Penn's Mexican student association, Mex@Penn, has raised more than $49,000 for the Mexican Red Cross. 

“Acting quickly and decisively, [the students] have responded to the heartbreaking images coming to us from Mexico after the earthquake,” Gutmann said, noting that the people of Mexico “are our friends and neighbors.”

Photo from Antia Vazquez 

At various points throughout the dialogue, Biden, Gutmann and Calderon all expressed concern for those affected by the earthquake. However, Calderon took also took time to express optimism, saying that “from the debris has emerged an incredible strong new generation of Mexicans.”

Biden has been on campus frequently in the past year. His last speaking event was in March 2017, and this marks the third time he has given a speech at Penn since the announcement of his role as Penn professor. Biden will appear in future Penn Biden Leaders Dialogues, although the schedule for these events has not yet been announced. 

Biden was comfortable on the stage, joking about "[his] niece who's in the vet school, and [his] nephew who's on the rugby team and [his] granddaughter who's a freshman."

"There will be a quiz," he added. "A Biden family quiz." 

The talk followed a private meeting between Calderon and the Mexican students at Penn. Antia Vazquez, a College and Wharton junior and vice president for external affairs of Mex@Penn, helped to organize the meeting. She said Calderon greeted each student and encouraged them to return to Mexico after graduation. 

Vazquez also said the dialogue between Biden and Calderon was "inspiring."

She said the talk reignited a desire "to fight for [Mexico], to make Mexico better, to make Mexico less corrupt.”

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