Penn Presidential Professor of Practice and former Vice President Joe Biden addressed a sold-out audience and held a conversation with Penn President Amy Gutmann at Irvine Auditorium Tuesday.
Biden criticized President Donald Trump's policies and touted his experience as vice president in an impassioned conversation with Gutmann — but notably did not touch on his presidential aspirations as speculation about his candidacy for the 2020 Democratic primary continues.
Here are the top takeaways from the event.
Biden isn't ready to declare for president
Gutmann began the event with a pertinent joke, asking Biden about a big upcoming event on a lot of people's minds, setting the stage for a potential presidential announcement. Yet Gutmann proceeded to mention this weekend's Oscars ceremony instead, drawing laughs from the crowd.
Biden did not directly address whether he was going to run for president in 2020 all afternoon, but he nevertheless touched on pressing political issues that were comparable to a campaign pitch.
Donald Trump is far from Biden's favorite person
Another topic that was not directly mentioned during the conversation was President Donald Trump. Although Trump's name was not uttered once, Biden took plenty of veiled shots at the 1968 Wharton graduate.
Biden did not mince words when discussing the Trump administration's foreign policy, specifically criticizing the administration’s skepticism towards the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“Both of those, for the first time in 70 years, are under attack,” Biden said, labeling the Trump administration’s opposition to the two organizations as “the dumbest thing in the world.”
Biden also slammed Trump's reaction to the 2017 Charlottesville white supremacist protests. The former vice president received applause after he said, "it's time to restore America's soul, remind ourselves who we are."
Income inequality resonates with Biden
Biden dedicated a significant portion of the conversation to talking about the rise in wealth disparity in the United States.
He pointed 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 touched on the anger of the working and middle classes in America amid concerns over globalization.
“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.
He has a hopeful vision for America
At a time when reporting on political polarization dominates the media, Biden spoke about his optimistic view of the country's future.
Biden acknowledged the struggles of the working and middle classes in America, but said the country's strengths in diversity and enterprising ethos gave him hope that the country could address these problems.
"This is the United States of America," Biden said. "We can do anything."
The positive nature of Biden's words impressed College freshman Tanya Gupta, who approved of the way Biden framed and defined the nation.
"We're hearing a lot of negative things about America, so it's kind of refreshing," Gupta said.
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