Penn students filled Irvine Auditorium on Tuesday to listen to former Vice President Joe Biden discuss issues concerning lack of cooperation in the political world.
The dialogue, titled "Competing Visions of the Global Order," is the culmination of the two-day-long Perry World House Colloquium on the future of world politics, with this Penn Biden Leaders Dialogue serving as the capstone event. Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor Biden and former deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom Nick Clegg discussed matters such as NATO, Russia's interference on countries working together, China’s role in the next industrial revolution, education, as well as Brexit.
During the dialogue, Biden spoke on the topic of unity, especially in terms of Russia.
“[Clegg] and I generally agree that part of what Putin has been attempting to do is disassemble the EU and NATO," Biden said. "He would much rather deal with 28 different countries, which cannot resist Russian interference, rather than deal with a unified group of European countries."
Biden and Clegg expressed concern about countries not cooperating with each other.
“We are unwittingly dismantling our capacity to act collectively," Clegg said, speaking of the international community and Europe. "Next time we have a systemic crisis, I worry we don’t have the capacity to respond.”
Biden also condemned "phony populism" on the rise in the United States.
"The worst thing in the world we can have is this new naked nationalism, 'America First," Biden said. "I believe making America first in the way we're doing it will make America last."
On the topic of Brexit, Clegg mentioned that since over 60 percent of British "youngsters" had indicated that they did not want the United Kingdom to leave the EU, the Brexit decision has imposed a future onto the next generation which they explicitly said they do not want.
However, the speakers still indicated that they had hope for their countries and the globe. Biden said that as Vice President, he was referred to as the "White House optimist, like I was the new guy in town."
"I think America is the most essential nation, not that we do everything right but we have capacity to reach around the world," Biden said. "We could be a positive influence."
Wharton and College freshman Samidha Sane noted the speakers' optimism.
“Despite the rise of populism that both of the leaders covered in detail — with the election of Trump and other nationalist world leaders, as well as events like Brexit in recent years — I found it inspiring and altogether refreshing that both Clegg and Biden still had hope," Sane said. "They were optimistic for the future of their respective countries as well as the larger global order."
"I think we see this with young people taking control all over the globe. We have youth and millennials keeping their politicians accountable, voting, and running for public office," Sane added.
This is the second Penn Biden Leaders Dialogue, coming a year after Biden discussed "The Future of the Global Order in an Era of Nationalism" with former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
After Penn named an institute after him, Biden said, "Then [Penn] named me—it makes me feel ancient—a Ben Franklin professor. I'm old, but I'm not that old."
Wharton and College freshman Catherine Qian said that what stuck out to her the most was Biden's ability to reinstall faith in the country and in public service.
"As someone who wants to go into public service, the first month of freshman year has been overwhelming for me in the amount of unexpected pre-professionalism I’ve found here," Qian said.
"[Biden] was so incredibly passionate, both in his belief in this country and his belief in us to be the change-makers we need to be, I was moved to tears. His passion was an important, much-needed reminder to focus on what I truly care about.”