Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke to a packed Irvine Auditorium on Thursday about topics ranging from gun control to his relationship with former President Barack Obama.
Introduced as “Penn’s own,” Biden engaged in a dialogue with Penn President Amy Gutmann about international affairs, cancer, and the presidential administrations. After answering Gutmann's questions, he took questions from the audience and also remained on stage afterwards to meet attendees personally.
The dialogue began by addressing the current nationwide debate about gun control and the "March For Our Lives" movement. The national gun violence protests tell the nation that it “can’t continue to turn a blind eye to the prostitution of the second amendment,” Biden said.
To the students, Biden said, “You have more influence on your parents than they have on you,” as a means to break their ideas of underestimating themselves. Although he called the young generation “incredible,” he also said that it’s very “lousy in participating in politics,” as his final call to vote.
The dialogue between Gutmann and Biden was full of personal anecdotes, from his time with Russian President Vladimir Putin to his work in the Obama Administration.
One attendee from the audience asked Biden about what he missed most about his time with Obama. In addition to their copious amount of trust and admiration, Biden missed their lunches together. He also joked, “Barack made the first friendship bracelet, not me."
During Biden’s "lightning round" of questions with Gutmann, she asked him three questions more related to his personality, much to the delight of the audience. Separated from the heavy political discussion, Gutmann asked Biden to describe Penn in three words. Biden said, “Engaged. Enlightened. Opportunity.”
He also said that his three role models when he was a college student were Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, and his father. Both MLK Jr. and Robert Kennedy were his political heroes and were killed in his senior year of college. In response to another question, Biden said that three historical figures he would like to dine with are the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus Christ, and Leonardo da Vinci.
After announcing his decision to run for vice president with Obama, Biden recalled how his granddaughter asked to invite over Obama’s family for a sleepover, resulting in children of difference races and backgrounds all sleeping together.
"When he said, ‘I knew then, I knew it was going to work then,’ that warmed my heart. That made me tear up," said Engineering freshman Cassandra Menshouse, who attended the event.
Biden continued to answer questions about Ukraine and the continuity of cancer research.
Menshouse said she thinks Biden continues to inspire students through his perseverance and commitment to many causes.
“[Despite] everything he’s been through, everything he has experienced in his life, he’s still continuing to fight for cancer research and good politics and international, global issues” Menshouse said.
Biden was named "Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor" in February 2017. Since then, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement officially launched in February 2018.
“I was really impressed with this talk. It was exciting to hear Joe Biden’s opinion on such a wide range of issues," College senior Kathryn Davis said. "He talked about international relations, he talked about politics in the U.S. today, and he also talked about his initiatives at Penn, and so it was exciting to hear all of it.”
“I feel like Joe Biden is a very valuable asset to the Penn community. He’s a very good role model," College freshman Beatrice Zhang said. "Through everything, he stayed humble and transparent and vulnerable, and I feel that’s something everyone should look up to.”