Former United States Vice President Joe Biden spoke to nearly 1,200 students at the Temple Performing Arts Center Wednesday night, hosted by Temple’s Main Campus Program Board.
Biden, who is rumored to run for president in 2020, spoke to students about the importance of being a leader.
He described the different leaders that have influenced him “in the hopes that [students] can use these skills to help make this country a better place.”
His speech began by describing his beginnings in his education at the University of Delaware in 1965 and Syracuse Law School in 1968 during a tension-filled time in America, like the Civil Rights movement, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Vietnam War.
“All of a sudden we all woke up one morning and realized that there’s no place to hide, no matter how well we did in our chosen endeavors,” Biden said. “We realized that if we didn’t get involved, things weren’t going to change.”
With his own personal stories, Biden reminded the crowd of students that “every time America has faced an existential crisis, it’s been the young people who lead the way.”
Biden discussed the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which he first proposed to Congress as a Delaware senator in 1990. For it to be passed, Biden said “courageous women” had to come forward.
He mentioned many women that were important in changing the culture around sexual assault to pass the act, like Marla Hanson, an actress who was attacked by two men hired by her landlord after she rejected his advances in 1986 and Anita Hill, an attorney who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Hill of sexual assault in 1991.
“These women, in order to save other women, subjected themselves to international and national ridicule to begin to change the culture,” Biden said.
Biden then went onto talk about his relationship to former President Barack Obama and his leadership skills.
“When he gave me authority, it was absolute, he gave me presidential authority,” Biden said. “When you’re commander-in-chief, it requires you to take personal responsibility, the president and I spent a thousand hours together in the situation room.”
He described the leadership that Obama demonstrated during the assassination plans for Osama Bin Laden, the leader of the terrorist group Al Qaeda, in 2011.
“Think about it, he’s the first African American president, knew that if he went and [Bin Laden] wasn’t there, his presidency was over,” Biden said. “But he had the courage, because he put the interests of the United States, even on a slight gamble, ahead of his own interests.”
Biden ended his talk by discussing the leadership of Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa and an anti-apartheid activist, the resilience of U.S. Sen. John McCain after being tortured for four years in the Vietnam War and his son Beau Biden, the former attorney general of Delaware and major in the National Guard, who died of brain cancer in 2015.
“America has been driven by this inherent notion that there isn’t anything we can’t do if we unite,” Biden said. “I’m begging you, it sounds so corny, but the country needs you, and I really genuinely mean it, particularly women.”
Many students in attendance were excited to see the former vice president in person, like freshman business major Tasmiah Kamal.
“I’m really excited to be here,” she said. “It’s almost like seeing the president. You’re never going to be able to see any politician this up close.”
Tom Golebiowski, a junior history major studying abroad from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, said he came to see Biden speak because his home university does not host any famous political speakers.
“I know that Joe Biden is a very important political figure, and I wanted to hear what he has say in this political climate, as it’s Republican dominated now,” Golebiowski said. “We’ve never had that big of a name talk at my old university, and it’s really cool that Temple was able to get him to speak.”
“I thought this was a great at opportunity to see a famous politician,” said Evan Murphy, a freshman marketing major. “[Biden] has a lot of good advice about politics and life, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to see him.”