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Credit: Ananya Chandra

In a conversation with Penn President Amy Gutmann, former Vice President and Penn Presidential Professor of Practice Joe Biden addresses a sold-out audience at Irvine Auditorium Tuesday. The event on Penn's campus occurs as people across the nation have been speculating about Biden's potential run for office in 2020.

Biden criticized President Donald Trump's foreign policy, border security plans, and touted his experience as vice president in an impassioned conversation with Gutmann. 

The Daily Pennsylvanian is reporting on the event, which is live-streamed below:

Gutmann began with a pertinent joke, asking Biden about a big upcoming event on a lot of people's minds, and proceeded to mention the Oscars. The veiled reference to his indecision over a presidential run drew laughs from the crowd.

“There’s been speculation about his presidency, and I don’t think he’ll mention it here, but I’m excited to see what he says about that,” College freshman Tanya Gupta said, addressing Biden's considerations.

With regard to the Trump administration's foreign policy, Biden did not mince words, specifically criticizing the administration’s skepticism towards the European Union and NATO.

“Both of those, for the first time in 70 years, are under attack,” Biden said. As Biden referenced NATO and stressed the importance of European solidarity, he turned to face the audience. 

He subsequently referred to the Trump administration’s opposition to the two organizations as “the dumbest thing in the world.”

Biden described the current global situation as "a really critical moment" for the generation of young people, emphasizing his belief that NATO will persevere. 

In another critique of the Trump White House, Biden labeled the president's policy on the southern border as "hysteria," going on to promote his efforts as vice president to improve living conditions in Central America.

In response to Gutmann’s question about the significance of Wharton cultural exchange programs, Biden noted the general importance of learning about different cultures.

“[Understanding other cultures is] the only way to get to a place where [students] can have the kind of the cooperation that we need to keep this world from being engaged in major international conflict, and provide for a constant increase in the standard of women in the world as a whole,” Biden said.

The conversation then shifted to domestic topics, where Gutmann hoped to address domestic problems at home.  

“Surely we have to be concerned about getting our own house in order,” Gutmann said.

Biden subsequently touched on the anger of the working and middle classes in America. 

“There’s a lot of people justifiably worried, and we have a lot of answers but we’re not speaking to these people," Biden said.

When criticizing Trump's reaction to Charlottesville, Biden received applause for declaring "it's time to restore America's soul, remind ourselves who we are." 

As Gutmann shifted gears towards Biden's time campaigning for Democrats in 2018, Biden criticized the vast wealth inequality in the United States, pointing out that the gap between the wealth of the top one percent and the rest of America is bigger than any time since before 1920.

“There’s no excuse for this,” Biden said. "What happened to a moral responsibility, a moral capitalism?”

The audience clapped as Biden talked about workers signing contracts with companies that required workers to not discuss their pay.

“What possible reason for that can be other than suppressing wages? Give me an explanation," Biden said.

Biden cited his experience as a Senator to recommend students should not overlook basic American values, even those antithetical to ours.

“It’s always appropriate to question a man or woman’s judgment," Biden said. "It’s never appropriate to question their motive, because you don’t know.”

While Biden admitted globalization — the opening of international markets to free trade — was not handled perfectly, he also criticized both the “extreme-right” and the “extreme left” for turning against this idea.

“We didn’t spend the time looking at the dislocation that would occur as a consequence of globalization," Biden said. “We could have done much better”

To conclude the event, Biden lamented the government's failure to resolve the situation of “DREAMers," undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors.

“They have been used as a political football and a political tool in a way I find to be somewhat disturbing,” Biden said.

"This is the United States of America," Biden said, expressing his positive vision for the country's future. "We can do anything."

Biden visited Penn's campus at least four times in 2018, most recently appearing at a voter registration event and a Perry World House colloquium in September 2018. He took a major role in the founding of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy & Global Engagement in Washington, D.C.

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