Former Vice President Joe Biden made another visit to Penn's campus on Wednesday, and he was ready to joke around.
“When you see me on campus, don’t pretend you don’t know me,” Biden said during his second speaking event on campus since the announcement he would be a Penn professor.
The event, which sold out in 78 minutes on March 15, was a question and answer session between Penn President Amy Gutmann and Biden about topics ranging from international policy to President Donald Trump.
Gutmann introduced the new head of the Penn Biden Center to enthusiastic cheers from the crowd.
“It’s great to be here as a part of Penn not paying tuition,” Biden said. Two of his children and two of his grandchildren graduated from Penn. “You all have an A as far as I’m concerned.”
After addressing Gutmann as “Madam President” to shouts of laughter from the audience, Biden also poked fun at his former boss.
“President Obama and I have become very close friends,” Biden said. “Some of those memes are funny. No, I’m not wearing his bracelet, but he is a very close friend.”
The two then delved into a conversation on international politics, the focus of Biden’s new center. On the subject of China, Biden said the country is moving to determine its role in the world.
“My view of China’s role is that it’s the single most consequential relationship for us to develop,” Biden said. “We have a lot more leverage in the relationship than they do ... [their] stability would not exist without us projecting power in the Pacific.”
The conversation then shifted to Russia, where Biden said the country’s declining power “makes it very dangerous.”
“Putin has concluded that it’s better to see a Europe fractured and democratic institutions fractured,” Biden said.
He suggested that the America should lead by setting an example, and worried about the direction in which the Trump administration was taking the country.
“Every other president has talked in terms of 'American values', because 'American values' is what we’ve been propagating,” Biden said. “What worries me most is we have a president now who's the first president I have been aware of who has never used the phrase 'American values.'”
When Gutmann brought up the topic of tension between jobs and values, Biden rose and began to pace the stage, saying there was no tension.
“People look out there and they say the world is really changing isn’t it ... you’re going to have to be educated in the next five years, what you know now won’t sustain you,” Biden said. “The answer to our jobs is for us to continue to engage the world and insist on fair trade.”
Here, Biden paused, spotting his niece in the crowd, and leaned down to give her a hug.
The moved into pre-selected student questions, where one student asked Biden to give Trump advice.
Biden’s wisdom: “Grow up.”
“Stop tweeting and start focusing,” Biden added. “The words of a president matter, they have enormous, enormous, enormous reverberating sounds around the world.”
Biden ended the conversation on a strong message of hope and positivity, advocating for bipartisanship.
“I am more optimistic about the prospect of the United States of America and your generation than I have been any time of my career,” Biden said. “I’m confident and optimistic because I’m a student of American history ... folks don’t tell me the American people can’t handle this.”
His personable nature led many in the crowd to respond to his message.
“You can really feel how patriotic he is,” Engineering senior Nathaniel Chan said. “It was pretty motivating to hear, just having hope for these times going forward.”
Other students remained in Irvine after the talk to talk and take pictures with the former vice president.
“I got a selfie!” graduate student Diane Huang yelled as she ran out of the theater.
College sophomore Myan Bhoopalam stayed after the event with other students to ask Biden more questions, and was rewarded with a picture with Biden onstage.
“It clearly shows he’s very close to the Penn community and about the students and where they’re from,” Bhoopalam said. “I wish he ran for president.”
As for Biden, this may not be the last we see of him on campus this semester.
“I’ll stay as long as you want,” Biden said.