“To be able to do something that you love, and you think it still means something – it’s worth it. I owe the people of my state and this country enormous gratitude because I never wondered if it was worthwhile.” —Joe Biden
Though biographies sometimes say that former Vice President Joe Biden always wanted to be involved in public service, he said to a crowd at the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium on Oct. 3: “That isn’t true. I got involved because of Lyndon Johnson, believe it or not.” At the Tuesday night event, he addressed a crowd of more than 900 about issues like partisanship, public service and the American spirit.
Following the main event, students from the LBJ School of Public Affairs had the opportunity to engage with Biden during an exclusive meet and greet. Click here to view more photos.
“I don’t know that I can put it into words,” said Thomas Trinh (MPAff ‘18) upon meeting Biden. “He’s definitely rooted us, humbled us in remembering that we don’t become elite.”
“He’s definitely rooted us, humbled us in remembering that we don’t become elite.” —Thomas Trinh, MPAff '18
“Believing what you do is possible and that it matters is central to achieving what you want in politics,” said Chris Willuhn (MPAff ‘17) on what he learned from the meet and greet with Biden.
Here’s what Biden had to say during his time in Austin.
On UT System Chancellor and LBJ Faculty Admiral William McRaven
“I’ve had the great honor of being involved in national security since I was a 30 year old kid. [ . . . ] In my entire career, one of the greatest honors I’ve had was working with Admiral McRaven. I’ve never met anyone with the courage, gumption and values that Admiral McRaven possesses. It’s been an honor to work with him.”
On Public Service
“To be able to do something that you love, and you think it still means something – it’s worth it," Biden said. "I owe the people of my state and this country enormous gratitude because I never wondered if it was worthwhile.”
“I learned my values from my grandpa’s kitchen table and my dad’s dining room table,” Biden said. “From my father, he thought every single solitary person was entitled to be treated with dignity. My dad believed you never complained and never explained. My dad believed – the phrase I most heard was, ‘Joey, if nothing’s broken, get up Joey.’ In my house, it was about getting up.”
"You are defined by your courage, and you are redeemed by your loyalty." —Joe Biden
Biden continued on what his mother taught him.
“You are defined by your courage, and you are redeemed by your loyalty. My mother believed the greatest virtue of all was courage. I was raised in my faith and my home with this notion the world doesn’t know you’re living. You gotta get up. There’s no excuse.”
Biden said Washington is more divided today than it was in even the turmoil of the early 70s.
“By the time I came to Washington, there were still a lot of people who were segregationists. As vicious as the fights were over civil rights in ’72, when the debate was over we’d have lunch or dinner together. The system worked. We went after each other’s judgment, not each other’s motive,” Biden said.
"It is never appropriate to question someone's motive." —Joe Biden
“The best lesson I ever learned in public life [. . .] it is always appropriate to question another man or woman’s judgment, but it is never appropriate to question someone’s motive.”
“In this democracy – the way the founders separated power wisely – nothing can happen without consensus. It’s virtually impossible to reach consensus after you’ve attacked the integrity of another man or woman,” Biden said.
“What’s different today is we don’t know each other." When people get to know each other, it's hard to harbor dislike, he continued. “You get to know who they are. It doesn’t change your views on their views. But you get to know them.”
“Flattery is great as long as you don't inhale,” Biden joked.
About Former Vice President Joe Biden
Joe Biden represented Delaware for 36 years in the U.S. Senate before serving as 47th Vice President of the United States. As the vice president, Biden addressed important issues facing the nation and represented America abroad, traveling over 1.2 million miles to more than 50 countries. He convened sessions of the President's Cabinet, led interagency efforts, and worked with Congress in his fight to raise the living standards of middle-class Americans, reduce gun violence, address violence against women, and end cancer as we know it.
Since leaving the White House, Biden continues his legacy of expanding opportunity for all, in the U.S. and abroad, with the creation of the Biden Foundation, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware. Through these nonprofit organizations, Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden will develop programs designed to advance smart policies, convene experts and world leaders on the issues they care most about, and impact the national debate about how America can continue to lead in the 21st century.